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Breaking down the GOP presidential debate in Tampa

CNN and the Tea Party Express hosted a Republican presidential debate Monday night at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Here's a look at how the candidates did:

Breaking down the debate

The candidateQuoteBest momentBiggest misstepRating the performance
Michele Bachmann, 55

U.S. representative from Minnesota since 2007. Married with five children, 23 foster children.
On illegal immigration: "The American way is not to give taxpayer-subsidized benefits to people who broke our laws."Questioning Perry's motivation for signing an executive order requiring young girls to receive a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), suggesting it was to help a campaign donor.Failing to show herself as a strong tea party alternative to Perry.Effectively made her point that she has been a strong voice for repealing federal health care law and fighting against raising the debt ceiling.
Herman Cain, 65

Former CEO

and president of Godfather's Pizza; professional author, speaker.

Married with two children.
On being an outsider: "People say you don't know how Washington works. Yes I do. It doesn't."Presenting specific proposals for cutting health care costs and showing humor.Suggesting that a regulatory review commission be stacked with people who have been "abused by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)."Good performance. But still not top tier.
Newt Gingrich,


Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; consultant and author. Married with two children.

On the Perry/Romney fight about Social Security: "I'm not particularly worried about Gov. Perry or Gov. Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day."Stealing a moment away from Perry and Romney in the middle of their debate-inside-a-debate about whether Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Answering a question about taxes with position on energy independence.Can deliver applause lines, but not sure why he's running.
Jon Huntsman, 51

Former U.S. ambassador to China; former governor of Utah. Married with seven children.
On illegal immigration: "For Rick (Perry) to say you can't secure the border is pretty much a treasonous comment." Touting his record leading Utah.Asking if Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain ghost-wrote Gov. Romney's book, No Apology, a pop-culture reference probably lost on tea party crowd. Not the crowd's cup of tea.
Ron Paul , 76

U.S. representative from Texas; retired medical doctor. Married with five children, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
On ways to reduce spending: "We spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don't need to be in, and we need to cut there and then put this money back into our economy here."Saying that as a Texas resident, his taxes doubled with Perry as governor.Getting booed while trying to explain why America should accept some blame for the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.Performance showed precisely why so many people like him — and why it's so difficult to see him winning the nomination.
Rick Perry, 61

Governor of Texas since 2000; former Air Force pilot; former cotton and wheat farmer. Married with two children.
On his plan as president: "I will use an executive order to get rid of as much of Obamacare as I can on Day 1."Shooting back against Romney's attacks on his Social Security stance.Saying he cannot be bought for a $5,000 donation. It begs the question: Is there a higher purchase price?Nobody knocked him off stride, and they sure did try. A friendly crowd helped him along.
Mitt Romney, 64

Former governor of Massachusetts; founded Bain Capital, a venture capital firm. Married with five children.
On Perry's jobs record in Texas: "If you're dealt four aces, it doesn't make you a great poker player."Challenging Perry on his position on Social Security with direct questions.Not landing any knockout blows on Perry.A tea party audience isn't Romney's best crowd. Had to play a little more defense than he probably wanted.
Rick Santorum, 53

Former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; former U.S. representative. Married with seven children.
On President Barack Obama's economic record: "Some people say that Barack Obama's economy is a disaster. My feeling is it would have to be dramatic improvement just to be a disaster."Attacking Perry for requiring HPV vaccine; saying it's "government run amok."Failing to distinguish himself on a stage filled with more interesting characters.Made the argument he could win in a blue state (Pennsylvania). But do GOP primary voters care?

Breaking down the GOP presidential debate in Tampa 09/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 12, 2011 11:36pm]
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