To Debate or Not To Debate … The Cain/Gingrich Texas Showdown

 

I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to attend the Cain/Gingrich Debate from Texas GOP Vote last week.  It was hosted in The Woodlands, Texas, not far from my home so I was especially excited to have the event so close for a change.  And how interesting that it would be in a format similar to the Lincoln-Douglas style debate where there would be more of a conversation between the candidates and the American people than the typical 30 second sound bite we’ve been told we must follow in televised debates today.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew it would be different and I was excited to be a part of it.
Here is a picture of me with my good friends Tabitha Hale of FreedomWorks and Kat McKinley of the Houston Chronicle in the blogger lounge prior to the event.  

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Julie Taylor, President of the Texas Patriot PAC, who was hosting this event.  She spoke to the bloggers noting how excited the voters should be that that history was being made as Cain and Gingrich were going to speak respectfully to one another on the subject of entitlements.  She informed us that each candidate would spend about 5 minutes with the bloggers with a Q&A immediately following the debate. 
A question was presented to Dr. Taylor at this time asking who requested no questions be asked of Cain about the sexual harassment accusations against him.  Note: we received information advising to guide our questions toward the $15 trillion train of total debt and honor the finest tradition of journalism by sticking to the entitlements subject matter.  Dr. Taylor stated that this event was to be “focused on entitlements and not gossip.” Well, there you go.  A cold chill fell over the room, but it is what it is.  Oh, and apparently if you stray from the advice, which apparently the media side did, well, don’t go there. Hmm.
As the hush in the room rescinded, another blogger asked why Cain and Gingrich and no other candidates were invited. Dr. Taylor responded that they already had a relationship with Cain as he had attended their April tea party.  Gingrich had presented interest in this type of round table event; therefore, they took him up on his offer.  Dr. Taylor noted she hoped other candidates would find interest in this participating in this type of debate and that the Texas Patriots PAC is open to possible future events with other candidates too.  This is great news and I hope the other candidates take full advantage of this format.
The moderators, neither who have endorsed a candidate, were Rep. Steve King from Iowa and Ben Streusand, Chairman of Americans For Prosperity.  They did not steer the debate and there were no gotcha moments.  I welcome this and hope it continues for future debates, although I doubt it will. 
There was solid great conservative energy in Texas for this full house of approximately 1,000.  Dr. Taylor noted earlier that they had to add seats to the event for late attendees.  I viewed the room as a variety of Americans from all walks of life.  Everyone in attendance was buzzing with excitement for the event. 
Fact:  the debate was not really a debate as both Cain and Gingrich are conservatives with similar viewpoints of our country and its greatness.  It was more of a discussion of how they, as President, could help make her better with great ideas on what works and what doesn’t.  This type of format highlighted … in bold large print … how ideas with facts and specifics can overshadow generalities.
First question referred to the Ryan Plan.  Both Cain and Gingrich agree with it.  What stayed with me here was that Gingrich said we have to have a better health system before we arrive at a better affordable system while focusing on the big challenge of educating people on how to think about the changes needed.  The format then allowed Cain time to disagree with Gingrich.  He didn’t. He instead added to it.
Cain then speaks of his time as CEO of Godfather Pizza and how it’s easier to control what is inside a company than what is happening on the outside.  He discussed how Medicare started in 1965 and how our government stated it would cost 6 billion dollars. We were then told by the government that by 1990 it was going to cost 12 billion.  ”Target missed.  Then, here we are at 109 billion.  That’s a 900% miss.  How many businesses can survive missing a target like that?”   None. Good analogy. 
The discussion went on pretty much like this with no debating and more conversation on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Gingrich giving the detailed specifics on what needs to change and how to do it in layman’s terms.  It flowed.  It was not rehearsed.  Natural.  There were a few instances where the question was first presented to Cain, but he instead passed to Gingrich for him to answer first.  This was painful to watch.  Punting is painful. Every time it happened, the air was sucked out of the room and I heard whispers of “did that just happen?”  or “are you serious?”  Exactly.  It was felt as being that bad.
A couple of points that Cain made that brought the most applause and stuck with me:  1.  We have the best healthcare in the world despite our healthcare cost problem and that we must use market driven patient centered approaches with Loser Pay Laws.  Like Governor Perry pushed and signed into law in Texas.  2.  We must go from an entitlement society to an empowerment society.  And we must support Voter ID Laws.  Also like Governor Perry pushed and signed into law in Texas.  Just sayin.
There were several times when the discussion dragged.  More so coming from when the moderators who went into excruciating detail on the entitlement questions being presented.  I noted many glazed eyes within the room, despite the wealth of information voters were receiving from Gingrich and Cain’s input.  This should be scaled down for future events.
Personal retirement accounts. Applause.  9-9-9 mentioned only once during entire 90 minute time frame.  Applause.  Chilean model.  And not the supermodels either.  Younger workers having the choice to stay in the current plan or move to a new option. Galveston Texas model. Growth.  Honesty.   Repeal 0bamacare.  Big applause. Rethink Medicaid as we do not solve poverty with the liberal model of the past 50 years.  Boogie woogie.
My favorite line of the night came from Gingrich when he said “This President is about as candid and accurate about what he tells the American people as Bernie Madoff.”  Word.
I felt more “love” for Cain amongst the crowd when walking around them and in the audience, although Gingrich received the more thunderous applause.  I saw Gingrich as more engaged with the audience too.  I’ve seen him speak before and he is always brilliant and a man with big ideas that would fundamentally change America for the better. Could he?
Cain was also engaged, but something was missing that I’ve seen before.  Yes, he’s been under tremendous pressure with the media regarding the harassment allegations circling his wagon, but a President must remain calm and carry on even in times of turmoil and surround himself with those who stay on point.  Can he?
When Gingrich asked him what he found the most surprising while running for President, Cain said he was most surprised at the nit-pickiness of the media and he did not expect them to be “down right dishonest” as it was a “disservice to the American people.”  Really?  Even my teenage son knows how the media works and he’s … a kid. 
The discussion ended with laughter just as it began as Cain asked Gingrich “If you were Vice President of the United States, what would you want the President to assign you do first?” A roar of laughter was probably heard miles away.  Gingrich was red faced and took a bit of time to compose himself from laughing.  His response?  Not go hunting.  Good one.
Everyone left the room smiling and happy.  Full video of the Cain/Gingrich Debate at the jump here!
I had the opportunity to video the blogger Q&A too.
Both Cain and Gingrich answered some very good questions from my fellow bloggers.  I especially loved my friend Kathleen’s question to Gingrich about his video with Pelosi on climate change and David Jennings Big Jolly Politics’ question to Cain on the Hispanic vote. Listen up.
Gingrich Blogger’s Lounge Q&A:
Cain Blogger’s Lounge Q&A:


This event had an odd vibe 
to me and I walked in with a different feeling than when I walked out.  For me, the weird vibe didn’t come from the actual 90-minute discussion, but instead from the blogger Q&A.

I met Gingrich at CPAC and he was as personable and friendly last night as he was then.  When he answers a question, there is no doubt he is and always will be the smartest guy in the room.  I’ve always been impressed, but for some reason this time, I felt more at ease with him.  Could it be because we know he would mop the floor in a debate with 0bama?

I’ve also met Cain previously at CPAC, RightOnline and at the Smart Girl Summit. This is where I felt uncomfortable change.  Like the elephant standing the middle of the room and no one saying anything about it instead tip-toeing the easy line.  Never mind “gossip,” what about the mishandling of these accusations after having 10 days notice and then turning around and blaming another campaign?  The comfort and easiness I once felt for Cain is gone.  The whole situation just makes me sad.  Le sigh.
In the end, I very much enjoyed the more detailed aspect of the round table and definitely did not miss the gotcha moments or sniping back and forth.  For me, Gingrich was the winner.  Yes, it dragged at some point, but all in all, big kudos to Texas Patriots PAC and Texas GOP Vote for all their hard work. 
I hope other candidates take advantage of getting their message out in this type of format as we desperately need to do this with our conservative base and take back the foundation rather than allow the media to run point.  We need the best person, with the best record and the best ideas who surrounds themselves with the best people.  The best.  Period.  Because settling for someone with big promises, no experience and a pretty smile is why we are where we are today.  Oh and rabid government spending.
So pay attention my friends.  Do your homework on every candidate and check their records!  Experience and knowledge is key as well as surrounding yourself with other like minded individuals who believe in the greatness of America.  Don’t leave it to someone else.  You ARE someone else!

Michelle is the Texas state coordinator for Smart Girl Politics. Follow Michelle on Twitter @skigarmisch.

  • Cooksterskye

    Our President’s name is Dr. Julie Turner.