Photo Credit: Getty
In a town famous for the most entertaining boxing matches in history, the Venetian in Las Vegas was the perfect stage to host a heated Western Republican Presidential Debate that resulted in more upper-cuts than a heavyweight title fight. Counter punching might have brought Perry back to life, left Romney with some bruises and made Cain smile and throw a few counter-punches of his own. . What about the others? They each displayed a few good punches and, in many cases, lost points with some low blows. Is this spirit of contention the road to the white house? Let's recount the top 4 most memorable moments of the most controversial and aggressive debates so far:
1. Putting Cain on the Ropes
9-9-9 sparked major debate which may or may not have helped Cain. However, while under attack Cain remained calm and, at times, even funny in his mano-a-mano with the other candidates. "Herman, I love you brother, but your plan will put sales taxes on states that don't have it," Perry said. New Hampshire, which just happens to hold the nation's first primary, is one of those states. "I'll bump tax plans with you, brother," Perry says. This was countered with a little humor and analogies of apples and oranges by Cain. 9-9-9, while an easy sound bite left many unanswered questions as Republican rivals picked apart the details. Still, Cain's non-political, straight-to-the-point, solutions-minded approach appears to be resonating with Republican voters.
2. Romney's Corner Comes with Credibility Questions
Consistent with the last debate, Obama-care was put in question, which resulted in a spotlight on Mitt Romney's healthcare history, bringing his famed Massachusetts health care reform plan - dubbed "Romneycare" to the forefront . Ron Paul said the government needs to get out of health care. Herman Cain said he wouldn't keep any of Obamacare, calling it "a disaster". The conversation continued with Rick Santorum attacking Mitt Romney over his Massachusetts health care plan and its stark similarities to the Obama's federal program, saying "you just don't have credibility". But his attack was quickly forgotten with the exchange that followed...
3. A Feisty Rick Perry Comes Out Swinging!
Perry was energetic, decisive, direct and more robust than ever before. Definitely the most memorable and shocking movement was his feisty immigration animosity, accusing Romney of lying to the public about hiring illegal immigrants. Certainly a clip likely to get thousands of views on YouTube - where Perry and Romney go blow-for-blow in an all-out battle for the microphone. Romney and Perry caught themselves talking over each other, making personal remarks that questioned their presidential appeal. Was this the right move to bring Perry back to the top? Or was this an unfortunate moment that made both him and Romney look less presidential than ever... a moment that turned the boxing match into a mud wrestling battle. Still too close to call, this one may need to go to the judges scorecards.
4. A Big Right Hook that Misses the Mark with Latinos
A moment to connect with the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. turned into a missed opportunity. Instead of acknowledging the need for an integrated approach to immigration, a short-sighted discussion of building fences, double-walled fences and electrified fences lead to a condescending path that ended nowhere! Are Republicans ignoring the 67% of Latino voters that supported Obama? Let's recount the numbers; swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are all over 20% Latino. A myopic approach to immigration is impacting their ability to connect at a broader level with this community. Debates are An Opportunity to Win Over the Latino Vote and unfortunately this debate missed the opportunity badly. Beyond immigration, registered Latino voters care about education, jobs and healthcare too.
At 8:54pm, in an effort to take the Hispanic conversation out of the stereotypical corner, a Hispanic man in the audience points out that not all Hispanics are illegal immigrants -- what about the American citizens. A millisecond of hope came through from candidates like Newt Gingrich who said "Hispanics deserve the same opportunities as all Americans." Ron Paul said "the solution to the immigration issue is a better economy"...probably one of the simplest and deepest comments on the topic ironically coming from an ultra conservative like Paul. But this round goes to Rick Santorum who scored a knockout punch with his sincere share of respect in recognizing the importance of faith and family for Latinos. This one-liner was the strongest and most genuine emotional connection shared by a Republican candidate in addressing Latinos. By getting to a core point of relevancy, Santorum's response earns him an "A" for going beyond the stereotypical immigration issue and taking time to acknowledge an insight that hits home.
So, who has emerged? Was this a make or break debate for Romney, Cain, Perry, others? Unfortunately this match was tainted by personal attacks that poorly reflect on the party as a whole and left the GOP with a black eye as opposed to a title belt. Breaking Reagan's eleventh commandment "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican" has possibly left the Obama team celebrating. For the GOP's sake, let's hope that what happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. The winner of this fight was the Democrats.