Theodore's World: Why Rick Perry Won the GOP Debate at the Reagan Library

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September 08, 2011

Why Rick Perry Won the GOP Debate at the Reagan Library

Why Rick Perry Won the GOP Debate at the Reagan Library


“When the dust settles on presidential debates, they are usually remembered for one defining moment, and in this case, that was undeniably the exchange between the race’s two frontrunners on Social Security.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry refused to back down on his comments that Social Security was a “Ponzi scheme,” explaining that while it would be there for those at or near retirement, it was not sustainable for younger generations. He said politicians need to be willing to be “provocative” on the issue in acknowledging that the program was a “monstrous lie.”

Yet Mitt Romney played it safe, saying there needed to be tweaks to the program’s finances, but that it was wrong to call it a failure.

The exchange, more than any other moment in the debate, epitomized the contrast between Perry and Romney’s approaches to the campaign. Romney is the establishment candidate who is trying to win on the basis of being the most “reasonable” and electable, whereas Perry wants to come across as somebody who will stick to his conservative principles and tell it like it is.

Ultimately, I think this contrast is likely to play into the hands of Perry in the Republican primaries, because right now the base wants somebody who is willing to shake things up and challenge the status quo. And there’s good reason for them to feel this way. For anything to get done about the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, we’ll need a president who is willing to embrace real changes to our existing entitlement structure. After watching this exchange, Perry seemed willing to do that, whereas Romney seemed to be offering more of the same. His general answer on Social Security tried to have it both ways. By defending the program as a great success that simply needed to be adjusted, it wasn’t all that different from Obama.

So I think Perry, with the Social Security answer, his strong defense of his death penalty record, touting of Texas’s economic performance, and his willingness to attack his rivals in a way that Tim Pawlenty was not, showed us why he shot up into the lead in national polls shortly after entering the race. Yet he seemed to tire as the debate wore on, and many of his answers — such as on global warming, foreign policy, the uninsured rate in Texas, and education — were evasive, vague and unfocused. While he didn’t make any major gaffes tonight, in future GOP debates, and especially if he becomes the nominee, he’ll have to come off as a long more polished and demonstrate a better grasp of specifics.

Perry’s courage in speaking the truth about Social Security bodes well for his willingness to frontally tackle entitlement reform, and the opposite appears true of Romney. A principal reason that voters are reluctant to change entitlements is because politicians lie to them, claiming that these programs are just fine. Perry, on the other hand, says things like this: “I think the first step in finding the solutions is admitting we have a problem—and admitting that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.” Perry is right.


Wild Thing's comment......

This is an awesome write up, I hope you all have time to read it. It really describes why Perry made a difference in the debate and I think he will keep on hitting hard on important things.

Posted by Wild Thing at September 8, 2011 05:47 AM


It is indeed an excellent piece, Wild Thing.

This is no nonsense straight talk, honest straight up talk, calling a spade a spade, no obscuring of realities, no defending the indefensible, and none of this political correctness we're all tired of.

This is Rick Perry speaking truth to power.

And Americans will see this, and welcome it refreshingly.

(This piece by the way was written by senior editorial writer at The Washington Examiner who continues to write well:)

Posted by: Carlos at September 8, 2011 02:00 PM

He won the debate because He has a backbone. The rest amount to cigar store indians. A dime a dozen.

Posted by: Mark at September 8, 2011 06:17 PM

Carlos,thank you for the link and information.

Mark, that really is important now more then ever, to have someone that has a backbone like you said. America has got to not only survive from Obama but flurish again as well and that will take someone with a strength so needed.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 9, 2011 03:08 AM