Tampa, Florida (CNN) – With Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatening to cement his standing atop the national polls, his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination aggressively sought to undermine his conservative credentials on Monday during the first-ever CNN/Tea Party debate in Florida.
Perry repeatedly found himself in the crosshairs, as the field of candidates took turns attacking his positions on illegal immigration, Social Security, and his controversial 2007 push to vaccinate Texas schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted that can lead to cervical cancer.
Analysis: Michele Bachmann Wins Tea Party Debate
With her standing in the polls slipping, Michele Bachmann needed to find a way to capture the spotlight she held earlier this summer.
She just may have done that tonight at the Tea Party Express/CNN debate in Tampa, Florida.
Bachmann, the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, knew her audience well and it showed.
Video: Perry doubles down on in-state tuition for illegals in Texas
Another clip via Breitbart TV, which did a bang-up job tonight of posting highlights almost as fast as they happened. Were these the only actual boos (or maybe they’re grumbles of dissent) that Perry got? My thinking on this subject has been that if we’re willing to vote for Bush and McCain, we’re willing to forgive any potential nominee their heresies on immigration — especially since Perry’s position here likely improves his electability by attracting Latino voters in the general. But maybe I’m wrong. None of tonight’s “problem” issues — Social Security, Gardasil, the Texas DREAM Act — is necessarily fatal on its own, but together I think they’ve raised enough doubts to erode some of the white-knight stature he enjoyed when he first declared.
CNN-Tea Party Express Debate Post-Mortem
Michele Bachmann – She had a feisty exchange with Perry over the HPV vaccine and spoke passionately about repealing Obamacare. I’m not sure if this will result in a bump in her poll numbers.
Rick Santorum – The reason I say Bachmann might not get a bump is because Santorum had a very good night. Whether he was talking about Social Security, going toe to toe with Perry on the HPV vaccine and tearing into Ron Paul over blaming America the September 11th attacks he was a force in the debate. I think Santorum will get a second look.
Ron Paul – He deservedly drew derision from the audience when he essentially became an apologist for al Qaeda. Since when do we let jihadists dictate our foreign policy? Anyone who makes excuses for our enemies is not fit to be President of the United States.
Newt Gingrich – He had his moments like when he said that President Obama was scaring people on a daily basis and when he placed scrutiny on GE after Blitzer tried to focus his attention on the oil companies. I also noticed that Santorum seemed particularly friendly towards him. But I don’t think these moments are enough to improve his fortunes.
In the final analysis, the biggest winners in the debate were Romney closely followed by Santorum and Cain. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman were the biggest losers. Paul and Gingrich haven’t demonstrated the viability of their campaign while the jury is still out on Michele Bachmann. But a week in politics is a lifetime, never mind ten days when they converge again in Orlando.
Read the full analysis on all the candidates at The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : CNN-Tea Party Express Debate Post-Mortem.