Over 4,900 video questions were submitted to YouTube for the November 28 CNN/YouTube Republican Debate. Of those, one song and 32 questions made the cut to be presented to the candidates. Not every candidate answered every question. The candidates involved in the debate, in alphabetical order, are: Rudy Guilliani, Mike Huckabee, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rep. TomTancredo, and Fred Thompson. The debate moderator was CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Though many issues were addressed in this debate, the key ones were immigration, abortion, the war in Iraq, and gun control. A few of the other topics presented were religion, the national debt, and baseball.
Below is a review of the key issues, as well as the questions asked pertaining to each. Each topic is accompanied by an overview of each question with analysis as to how each respondent handled the question. For each topic, a ‘winner’ is declared. All winners of topics and questions are noted in bold. For the purpose of brevity, each candidate will be referred to by last name only.
Key Issue #1: Immigration
“Will you make America a ‘sanctuary city’ country?”
Respondents: Giuliani and Romney
Result: They both had moments of smooth talking, and moments of embarrassment. Romney kept his cool better than Giuliani who was visibly upset by Romney calling him on the carpet about his claims. Romney wins this question by a nose, but only because his facts against Giuliani were actually fact, while Giuliani twisted the facts to try to gain points over Romney. People who do that appear desperate, which does not bode well for voter confidence.
“Will you pledge to veto amnesty for illegal immigrants?”
Respondents: Guiliani, McCain, Tancredo, and Thompson
Result: Thompson started off by making the pledge. Thompson was doing famously with clear answers and a great plan with sound reasoning for how to handle the illegal immigration issue. He was well spoken and authoritative, and then he completely blew it and lost the ground he had just gained. He took cheap shots at both Romney and Giuliani on the ‘sanctuary city’ issue. If only he had stopped when he was ahead.
Giuliani then responded with the same nonsensical answer he gave to the sanctuary question, which included the statement that they had no illegals in New York City who were criminals. It was pointed out then that illegal immigrants are criminals by virtue of them being in the country illegally. His insistence that New York City was not a ‘sanctuary city’ because they reported all the illegals, ‘well, except the illegals they allowed in public schools, the illegals who were victims of crime, and the illegals they gave medical treatment to’ is the epitome of political rhetoric. He was talking out of both sides of his mouth on that one and it was clear by the audience response that it was duly noted. The statesman of 9/11 was not present for this question.
McCain answered the question by saying, ‘of course’ he would take the pledge but followed that up with a diatribe about how hard it is to be a senator and get anything done about issues; and stopped just short of contradicting his pledge with talk about how illegal immigrants are people, too who should be treated with kindness. ‘Time’ was called several times, and he was cut off before he could finish his statement. He then hurriedly threw in a reaffirmation that he would take care of the illegal immigrant issue if elected president. Anderson Cooper may have saved him from contradicting his pledge by calling a firm ‘time’ when he did. It certainly sounded like that is where McCain was headed.
Anderson Cooper then noted that the YouTube questioner was in the audience and asked for his feedback as to whether he felt his question was answered. He said ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘kind of’ in reference to the order and answers of the candidates. Then Tancredo piped up to the effect that the others should be allowed to answer. Anderson Cooper gave the floor to Tancredo.
For being so quick to pipe up about wanting the question, Tancredo was sure slow to say anything of value. All he did was monologue about him being a ‘bookend’ at debates and the others trying to ‘out-Tancredo Tancredo’. Anderson Cooper stopped him by telling him the next YouTube video question was directed at him. Tancredo blew a perfect opportunity to shine.
The winner of this question has to be Thompson, but only because the others messed it up so badly. Tancredo could have stolen it from him had he been on-topic and as engaging in his answer to it as he was in jumping in to get the question.
“With immigration reform failing, will I have a job?”
Respondents: Tancredo and Hunter
Result: The question listed is a little misleading because in the video the actual question is in regards to allowing ‘guest workers’ into the country. Tancredo said very clearly and adamantly he would not allow ‘guest workers’ as he believes there is no job that some American won’t take, with the qualifier, if it is for a decent wage. He stated also he has no pity for employers who have to pay fair wages rather than the low wages illegals will work for. It was a bold move and a smart one to be so clear and to so clearly state the rationale behind it; even though many may not agree with it.
Hunter was then asked the question, and he made a strong speech about illegal immigration and the double fence he built in San Diego. He won a ton of points with his experience, the statistics he threw out, and his stance. The audience reacted well. The problem is that he did not address the question. He stated his platform on illegal immigration, but said nothing about the ‘guest worker’ issue.
He lost this question to Tancredo, but only because Tancredo actually answered the question. Had Hunter addressed the question with the same forthrightness, knowledge and power he used in stating his illegal immigration stance, he would have won the entire illegal immigration issue hands-down.
“Lower college tuition rates – military families or illegals?”
Respondents: Huckabee and Romney
Result: Huckabee stated he was going to correct the ‘misinformation’ of the YouTube questioner, but in the end, only validated what she had said. He approves of giving discounted college tuition to illegals, and tried to pass such a measure while in office. His heart is in the right place, but his logic is flawed.
Romney was asked the question as well, but by means of Anderson Cooper pointing out that Romney has called Huckabee a liberal, which obviously made Romney a bit uncomfortable. Romney addressed both issues by pointing out the flawed logic in Huckabee’s statement and by stating his own reasoning on the issue, which is logically sound. It was clear he was trying to be respectful while pointing out the flaws in the argument. He was quiet for Huckabee’s reply, but Huckabee was all over him during his reply to Huckabee’s reply. Huckabee was clearly rattled. Romney wins this question for calm nerves under fire and sound logic.
Immigration Issue Winner: Hunter beat out Thompson by a nose, but only on his strong experienced statements regarding the issue and for not taking cheap shots at the other candidates. Thompson is a very close second.
Key Issue #2: Abortion
“If abortion is illegal, what should the punishment be?”
Respondents: Paul and Thompson
Result: Paul said that abortion is a state not a federal issue and he believes that is where it should be. He was clear, concise, and stated the facts.
Thompson rambled into an explanation of what Paul had already said, and then stated we need to get new Supreme Court justices in place who will overturn Roe v. Wade. At this point, Anderson Cooper called time. Paul wins this question for actually answering it and for getting right to the point.
“Would you sign a federal abortion ban?”
Respondents: Giuliani and Romney
Result: Giuliani answered he would not sign it and explained why while explaining the issue very briefly.
Romney said he agreed with Thompson and then rambled about not wanting any abortions at all in America. He then followed up with saying it would be ‘terrific’ if there was that kind of consensus in America to have a federal abortion ban. In spite of Anderson Cooper interrupting him to get a ‘yes or no’ answer as asked for in the question, Romney never did give one.
Giuliani wins this question easily for actually answering the question, and for giving a clear and concise explanation of the issue.
Abortion Issue Winner: Giuliani by a long shot for brevity, clarity, and strength in his stance.
Key Issue #3: The War in Iraq
“How would you repair the image of America?”
Respondents: Giuliani, McCain, and Hunter
Result: Giuliani became the statesman he was during days following 9/11. The man spoke with clarity, passion, and strength. He made his point; he answered the question; and summarized how to fix the problem by first distinguishing between an entire country and a small group of people – which is what the Islamic Terrorists behind 9/11 failed to do.
McCain, once again, was off-topic and rambled. His answer was more of a pat on the back for our progress in Iraq than anything else. He did not once address the image the United States has with the world. He did get in some attacks against the Democrats in the process.
Hunter took a strong impassioned stance, pointing out that America has always been there to help countries in need when we did not have to and he will not apologize for Iraq. His response time was severely limited.
While Hunter makes a good point that is well taken and a valid stance to take with the outside world; Giuliani got to the heart of what change needs to take place inside America in order to help change the minds of the outside world. Tough call, but the win is going to Giuliani on the technicality of him addressing how to ‘repair’ the image. Hunter’s approach is more along the lines of how to handle outside criticism, which was not the question.
“Is waterboarding torture?”
Respondents:Romney and McCain
Result: Romney answered that it was not appropriate for the president of a country to outline specifics as to how a captured enemy to the country would and would not be treated; which included outlining what specifically was considered ‘torture’. He deferred to the wisdom of men such as McCain, CIA heads, and Generals who served in action to help him make such decisions and definitions to be held and used with the utmost of secrecy.
McCain was a fool with this question. He immediately went into his responses to Romney’s answers with his own attack and agenda rather than addressing anything Romney actually said, or even really answering the question himself. He showed that he clearly did not listen, and was more interested in his own rhetoric than answering the question or addressing what Romney actually said. That will cost him with voters.
Romney was respectful and calm. McCain was on the attack. This will also cost McCain with the voters because attacking someone who is being respectful to you is not only a sign of desperation, but also the act of a bully. It is common knowledge that bullies are actually weak and cowardly. Horrifically huge mistake on McCain’s part. His choice to go on the attack when he did made him look very much like the weaker of the two. In street terms, Romney pwned him
“Will you make a permanent commitment to the people of Iraq?”
Respondents: Thompson, Paul, McCain, and Tancredo
Result: Thompson’s answer was that he believes we need to stay in Iraq as long as it takes to accomplish the mission. He was strong, impassioned, and concise.
Paul rambled, stuttered, and stammered his way through his answer, which was essentially that we need to get out of Iraq. He then made the mistake of comparing Iraq to Vietnam. The audience did not respond well to that, but you have to give a man credit for stating something he knows, going in, may not go over well with that particular audience.
McCain responded in a way that seemed like he took personal offense to Paul’s answer and did, in fact, begin by addressing his answer to Paul. He pointed out the fundamental difference between Vietnam and Islamic Terrorists being the Vietnamese didn’t want to ‘follow us home’, but the Islamic Terrorists most sure do.
Paul’s response was to state that the Islamic Terrorists came here (9/11 reference) because we were occupying their country. This outraged the audience.
Tancredo responded directly to Paul by saying, quite passionately and firmly, that even if we never set foot outside America, the Islamic Terrorists hate us for what we are and would still come after us. That was all he got to say before Anderson Cooper called ‘time’. Had he been given more time, he may have given Thompson a run for his money. As it is, Thompson wins for being direct and addressing the question. Paul may have cost himself some serious votes just for the way he handled this particular question.
“Is your campaign exploiting 9/11?”
Result: The question was directed at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani because of his ties with 9/11. He cannot be declared a ‘winner’ on this question because of the nature of it, but his answer can be reviewed.
He gave a quick rundown of his accomplishments as New York City Mayor prior to 9/11 including prosecuting mobsters, cutting back illegal immigration from Haiti, and cutting back welfare. Anderson Cooper kept him limited to his 30 seconds.
The War in Iraq Issue Winner:Thompson beats Romney on this issue but only because Thompson was allowed to directly address it. Both did well with their respective questions on the topic. Had Romney and Hunter been allowed to more directly address the topic, either could have won the issue.
Key Issue #4: Gun Control Laws
“What is your opinion on gun control?”
Result: Anderson Cooper gave Huckabee 90 seconds to answer, and the first thing Huckabee did was point out a critical error in safety the YouTube questioner made in handling a gun in his video. He then went on to explain his stance supporting the Second Amendment, and said it is a matter of personal and national security. He can’t be declared a winner for this question, but it was nice to see him given a little more air time. He handled the question well.
“Do you believe in a required written exam for gun ownership?”
Respondents: Giuliani and Thompson
Result: The question was directed at Guiliani and pointed out a possible contradiction in some campaign statements he has made. He responded by rattling off statistics and his belief as to the Federal Government and individual states having the right to create conditions to the Second Amendment. His answer seemed a bit convoluted and off-topic.
Anderson Cooper then directed the question to Thompson who took the question and ran with it, but didn’t come out and answer it. No winner on this question because neither candidate actually answered it. Both took the political rhetoric road.
“How many guns do you own?”
Respondents: Thompson, McCain, Hunter, and Romney.
Result: Thompson’s reply was quick and witty. McCain was a little longer, but direct. Hunter told a story in order to give his answer, and then Anderson Cooper interrupted to ask if any candidate other than McCain did not have a gun. Giuliani raised his hand, and then Romney did but qualified it with the explanation that he has two guns in his home, both owned by one of his sons. Thompson wins for an answer that was direct, quick, and witty.
Gun Control Laws Issue Winner: Thompson wins, but only because there was only one winner out of three questions and it was him.
Key Issues Winner: Thompson wins because out of the four critical issues in this debate, he won two of them.
Overall CNN/YouTube GOP Debate Winner: Fred Thompson. He hit his stride and won in two of the four key issues debated.
Who Picked up the Most Momentum? Fred Thompson seemed to shine the most of the candidates, which could well translate to higher ratings in the polls; though Mitt Romney did have the opportunity to show some very classy behavior under fire, which can be impressive to voters.
Most Need for Damage Control? It would be no surprise to list Ron Paul who seems to always be putting his foot in his mouth; but also needing some serious damage control would be John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. McCain is on the list for not sticking to the facts, and Giuliani is on the list for twisting them in verifiable ways.
For the most part, the candidates were respectful of the time as they tried to get their point across. Many could learn a few things about being more direct and concise, as well as learning to really listen. That would help them to not only answer debate questions, but also address issues brought up by their fellow nominees. In the beginning, many took pot shots at each other, but quickly cut that out of their answers; and with Anderson Cooper’s continuing direction, became more brief and direct.
Romney gets points for being respectful, well spoken, and sticking with the topic. McCain and Paul need new advisors and more preparation as their debate skills are seriously lacking. Hunter and Tancredo need to get more air time in the debates and push more, as the other candidates do, to get their whole point out there. Giuliani needs to be careful to stick to facts rather than ‘interpretations’ of them, before it costs him the election. Thompson holds his own well and stayed on topic well. Huckabee needs to spend more time learning how to get his input heard in debates, and less time trying to be ‘hip’ getting endorsements from Chuck Norris and Ric Flair.
It does not matter a great deal in the debates what their stand is on various topics as long as they have one they can explain logically and briefly. For the debates and the campaigning, they all need to get better at answering the actual questions and avoiding political rhetoric.
For those wishing to learn how their own personal views match up with the stated views of the candidates, an online matching quiz may be taken at the Minnesota Public Radio website.
Individuals wishing to find out more about the track record of the candidates related to the issues, may do so at any of several non-partisan sites including VoteSmart.org, OnTheIssues.org, and OpenCongress.org.
YouTube. The CNN/YouTube Debates – The Republicans.
GOP Debate Song; Will you make America a ‘sanctuary city’ country?;Will you pledge to veto amnesty for illegal immigrants?; With immigration reform failing, will I have a job?; Lower college tuition rates – military families or illegals? ;Do you believe in a conspiracy to make a new union?; What measures will you take to tackle the national debt?; What are the top three federal programs you would cut?; Do you support a ‘Fair Tax’?; Will you pledge never to raise taxes?; Will you eliminate farm subsidies?; How will you keep lead-laced toys out of my home?; What is your opinion on gun control?; Do you believe in a required written exam for gun ownership?; How many guns do you own?; If abortion is illegal, what should the punishment be?; Would you sign a federal abortion ban?; On the Death Penalty, what would Jesus do?;Do you believe every word of The Holy Bible?; How would you repair the image of America?; Is waterboarding torture?; Will you make a permanent commitment to the people of Iraq?; Is your campaign exploiting 9/11?; Should Vice-President Dick Cheney have so much power?; A gay Brigadier General asks a question; Do you accept the support of log cabin republicans?; Repay the $2 trillion borrowed from Social Security?; What is your vision for human space exploration?; Why don’t many African-Americans vote Republican?; What does the “stars and bars” flag represent?; How can we repair the infrastructure of America?; Mr. Paul, are you going to run as an independent?; Yankees vs. Red Sox
Accessed November 28, 2007
CNN. Campaign Trail Rancor Carries Over into GOP Debate (Developing Story) -Article
Accessed November 28, 2007
CNN. Campaign Trail Rancor Carries Over into GOP Debate (Developing Story) -Video
Candidates Debate Immigration; Song Serenades Candidates; “Answer However You Like”; McCain, Romney on Interrogation; Victory in Iraq; McCain, Paul Spar on Iraq; Candidates on the Bible; Tackling Debt; Candidates Debate Taxes; Hard Hitting Questions?
Accessed November 28, 2007
The CNN/YouTube Republican Debate Contest
Accessed November 28, 2007
Which Presidential Candidate is Compatible with Your Beliefs? Daniella Nicole. October 20, 2007. Dani’s Junk Drawer
Accessed November 28, 2007