Last night, the Republican field met for another debate, this one organized by CNN and a Tea Party group, and held in Florida. Michael Scherer at Swampland has a play-by-play, but in short we learned that (1) the GOP contenders want to make sure that Rick Perry does not pull away from the field; (2) CNN would really like the Tea Party not to view it as another arm of the liberal media, (3) being a “moderate Republican” now apparently means not letting some uninsured guy die in a hospital (see above) and (4) Jon Huntsman has apparently listened to Nirvana, though he may not have paid close attention.
CNN has taken some heat for co-sponsoring a debate with a political group like the Tea Party, but having at least one primary debate as a forum for a substantial movement within a certain party seems pretty legitimate. Sure, it made for a boisterous home-field crowd asking largely welcome questions that invited the candidates to pander, but there were still good, pointed queries among them, like the one from a young man who put the candidates on the spot as to what percentage of his income the government deserved.
If anything, it would have helped had Wolf Blitzer jumped in to direct the question to the entire field—that’s 9% from Herman Cain! Do I hear 8%? Do I hear 7%? But his moderation throughout the night suffered from, well, moderation, and he missed opportunities to expand on questions, redirect or press with follow-ups. (Even though he came prepared with some good starters, like the his health-insurance question to Ron Paul, above.) CNN won’t like to hear this, but they could have learned something from the aggressive questioning of the Fox debate some weeks ago.
Meanwhile, another group of candidates were being questioned and inspected on NBC—at the Miss Universe pageant, won this year by Miss Angola. If you saw either beauty contest, what was your verdict?