In South Carolina debate, candidates focus on foreign policy

Greenville, S.C.  – The five candidates who appeared on stage in South Carolina Thursday night for the first Republican primary debate of the 2012 election season neatly fell within their prescribed roles.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul was back in rare form (along with his “End the Fed!” supporters), former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum preached the conservative social issues agenda, businessman Herman Cain entertained with catchy one-liners, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was in full libertarian mode. And former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, described before the debate as being the only top-tier candidate participating, was exceedingly competent and knowledgeable, but failed to dominate the stage and deliver blows.

At one point, Pawlenty was even handed the opportunity to criticize the health care plan former Massachusetts Governor and potential candidate Mitt Romney implemented in his state.

“Well Governor Romney is not here to defend himself so I’m not going to pick on him or the position he took in Massachusetts,” replied Pawlenty.

But while Pawlenty was seen as the only A-list candidate in the debate, Cain ended the night with the title of “winner,” confirmed by a focus group put together by Frank Luntz which was aired on Fox News’ “Hannity” after the debate. The focus group participants were in near universal agreement that Cain stole the show.

As expected, Thursday’s debate focused largely on foreign policy. The first question, which was directed at Pawlenty, asked about the death earlier in the week of Osama bin Laden. Pawlenty congratulated President Obama for the successful operation, but followed up by pointing out that the president has made a number of foreign policy decisions he disagrees with.

“That moment is not the sum total of American foreign policy,” Pawlenty added.

When asked his thoughts about whether the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan,  Johnson answered in a way that became characteristic of much of his night: confusing.

“I believe that timetable should be tomorrow,” said Johnson, “though I realize that tomorrow may be several months.”

When asked by the moderator Bret Baier if they would have released post-mortem photos of bin Laden, only Cain said no. When the subject changed to waterboarding, Johnson and Paul were the only candidates to indicate that they would never use the interrogation tool under any circumstance.

“I don’t think it serves our purpose,” said Paul.

Pawlenty defended his stance on waterboarding by saying, “There is a subgroup who think it’s ok…to kill innocent people. [The president’s] first order of business is to protect this country and the American people.”

Santorum, who talked in moral terms almost throughout the duration of the debate, took a hard line on aid to Pakistan in the wake of bin Laden’s death.  “We need to engage the Pakistanis at a level we haven’t before,” he said. “We need to tell Pakistan…you either cooperate with us, or there will be consequences.”

At another point, Santorum called for the “reformation” of Islam in the Middle East. “We cannot continue to put the ideological battle in the closet,” he said.

  • krhteaparty

    Conservatives should follow Doctor Ron Paul who is the most ProLife and Liberty loving candidate of ALL of them. He has personally delivered over 4000 plus babies. Wake up folks and quit letting FOX Luntz play You….

  • krhteaparty

    Cain stole the show for Frank Luntz’ Neo-Con audience…..National Polls clearly indicate Ron Paul was the clear winner. Cain’s role as Deputy Chairman for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis will do him in….he is a puppet of the Bankers….another RINO

  • kingfish


  • Pingback: Debate reveals GOP lacking leadership depth – Vancouver Sun | DavnecNews

  • clw

    Ron Paul: He starts out sounding rational but his voice RAPIDLY escalates to near hysteria. The resounding applause in the audience was CLEARLY his fanatical followers, following him around as usual. He can’t influence many others.

    Pawlenty and Santorum: Equally over-intense and un-naturally aggressive. They came off as uber-phony in my book, and I normally like them.

    Johnson: Too much like the much older guy at High School parties who had you half convinced he was pretty intelligent. He smoked pot but held down a full time job, and actually knew a little about what was happening in the world around him; but you later wondered why he was there with all the kids from High School. Something kinda just not right… maybe not as smart as you thought.

    Herman Cain: Intelligent, has Business and Financial sense, common sense, NOT A POLITICIAN OR A LAWYER, straight and to the point. Not a windbag. He DEFINITELY won that debate.

  • BruceApplegate

    The world is burning around us and Politicians only care about the next election to decide their fate. It 5/6/2011, the next election is 11/12. Our congressionald representatives and supreme court are planning their summer break. Instead of hustling to work on legistlation to help the very reasons why health care and gas prices are out of control, the news media and politicians are more interested in campaigning. Campaigning means in this country mudslinging. Not what I will do for you, or more importantly what I am doing for you. Bruce Applegate, http://www.NewHeraldNews.com

  • michaelslevinson

    I am an independent unknown black-listed write-in candidate for president. I bring to the table a Vehicle for World Peace, that, 112 page double column Television Scripture, in a class with Dante, of Divine Comedic fame, and old blind Homer, as I can deliver, from dusk until dawn, on whirled wide television, with every line a delicate sensible rhyme, for all the worlds’ peoples to participate in together all at once. 
    That is my plan. Deliver the world to Peace and change the course of human history on good ship mother urf, performing my mull-tie-ling-well magnum art, starting at the beginning with Adman and Even in the Gar den ov Edum. 
    I was not invited to the republican debate, so i did not appear.  
    Thomas L. Friedman is my choice for Secretary of State. Keith Olbermann, my Press Secretary. Ground Zero is the issue this morning. Upon election I am going to appropriate the sixteen acres, establish an outer wall with pictures of all the innocent who gave their lives that morning, have benches, grass, cobblestones, that piece of infra structure that stood when everything else had come down, pictures of the buildings when they stood, and what the scene looked like in the aftermath. 
    Were there an actual sleeper, or cell in our country, boxing pizza in Brooklyn or Baltimore Ground Zero is their Terrorist Mecca. We have the “Enemy of the State” technology to record every word spoken there. It would cost $10-20 to pass the turnstiles, eliminating pan handlers, and people would come there from all over the world.  
    As president I can accomplish that with an Executive Order. 
    It has come to light there was a big patch of medicinal hooch growing next door to bin Laden’s digs in Pakistan. We need an Executive Order with national grow taxes and an end to the industrial jail complex as we cannot afford to keep locking up 800,000 people a year for smoking pot.  
    This would lead to 50,000 shops dispensing where one could have a smoke, sandwich, sweet drink. There would be 500 thousand new jobs and lots of empty storefronts bustling with business. A kid without employment history would be cleaning, bagging, and rolling blunts in the window, a fresh taxpayer in his dream job. 
    Pot fights inflation. If these dopes wanna lay around, out of circulation, burning their money – let them. The question is do I , a poet author of prophetic works, smoke dope. The answer: I smoke every dope within earshot. Stupid people burn up whenever I talk. 
    michael s lev in son dot commie

  • rockhard

    did not like any of them, they all seemed the same on illegal immigration. saying nothing and acting like they have the issue under control…

    just say no amensty for illegals period, they broke the law and must leave the coutnry, is that hard ? instead we get bunch of crap about allowing them to work here but not give them citizenship, which means nothing at all since they will have childeren born here and defacto citizens..

  • virginiagentleman

    I wouldn’t get to worked up over this debate. Like polls, this is just a snapshot of today. Each candidate still has plenty of time to prove themselves, or insert foot into mouth!…As a post scrip, Luntz has said he is a democrat and voted for Obama. Just sayin’.

  • moderatechris

    Can someone please tell me where I can watch the entire debate streaming online?

    PLEASE! I know it must be somewhere.

    I had to work last night and have only seen small clips on Fox. I am very interested in seeing it in it’s entirety so I can make up my own mind without pundits spin on who ‘won’.

    • tdpwells

      It’ll probably run a couple of times over the weekend – check their schedule.

    • krjohnson

      Moxnews has got it on Youtube. I think there’s a couple other channels that have put it up too. Here’s the first of 7 parts that Moxy broke it into: