Mitt Romney and Rick Perry may have stolen the show in last night’s debate with their heated exchanges, but there was much more to see on stage in Las Vegas. During breaks between Mr. Romney and Governor Perry’s bickering, the other Republican candidates discussed Occupy Wall Street, the War on Terror and Herman Cain’s infamous “9-9-9 Plan.”
One candidate wasn’t on stage for the Las Vegas debate. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman boycotted as part of his protest against Nevada moving its primary date ahead of New Hampshire, which has traditionally enjoyed prime positioning as the nation’s second major election event after the Iowa caucuses. Mr. Hunstman has described his boycott of the Nevada primaries as, ““an effort to preserve New Hampshire’s historic first-in-the-nation primary status.”
Protesting on New Hampshire’s behalf is presumably Mr. Hustman’s strategy to get more votes in that state, where he’s currently fourth place in most GOP primary polls. Mr. Huntsman is actually doing better in New Hampshire than he is in nationwide polls where he consistently places in seventh place or dead last in eighth.
For the Republicans who were there, the debate started off with a lengthy discussion of Mr. Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan. Mr. Cain’s plan was criticized by his opponents as creating an additional revenue stream for the federal government. They also said it would hit the middle class with high costs in conjunction with existing state taxes.
“I invite every family to do your own calculations,” Mr. Cain said.
Mr. Perry waded into somewhat uncomfortable racial territory in his criticism of the plan by repeatedly referring to Mr. Cain, who is the only African American candidate, as his “brother.”
“Herman, I love you brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need an analysis to figure that out. … I’ll bump plans with you brother and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working,” Mr. Perry said.
Mr. Cain criticized looking at his “9-9-9” tax plan in conjunction with state taxes as comparing “apples to oranges.”
“I’m going to be getting a bushel–basket that has both apples and oranges, because I’m going to be paying both taxes,” Mr. Romney said.
The Republican candidates also discussed their approaches to dealing with the Mexican border. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann pointed a finger at President Obama who she said had the “real problem” with illegal immigration.
“It’s his uncle and his aunt that are illegal aliens who’ve been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact they’re illegal,” Ms. Bachmann said.
She also discussed her plan to build a fence along the “entire” border and make English the “official language” of American government.
The debaters also addressed Occupy Wall Street. Mr. Cain said the protesters should leave the banks alone.
“They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. … They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration,” Mr. Cain said.
Mr. Cain also said the objectives of Occupy Wall Street are unclear asking whether “the people who are protesting”want “bankers on Wall Street to come down and write them a check.”
“This is what we don’t understand,” Mr. Cain said.
Ron Paul wanted to take aim at the federal reserve rather than the protesters.
“Mr. Cain has blamed the victims, there’s a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. … I’d go to Washington as well as Wall Street, but … the Federal Reserve, they create these economic bubbles. … We have to blame the business cycle and the economic policies that led to this disaster,” Mr. Paul said.
Mr. Romney said Americans should focus frustration with the economy on President Obama and “talk about what’s happened over the last three years” rather than the circumstances that led to the financial collapse.
Near the end of the debate, the conversation turned to foreign affairs. Ms. Bachmann suggested a unique approach to our financial relationships with Libya and Iraq.
“We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for what we did to liberate those nations,” Ms. Bachmann said.
After a stretch that saw six debates in a little over six weekes, the Republican candidates have three weeks off. The next Republican primary debate is scheduled for November 9.