Primary Debates and Forums

Bloomberg/The Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate

screen grab
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 in Spaulding Auditorium at Dartmouth College in Hanover,
NH from 8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET. 
1, 2

Sponsors:  Bloomberg Television, The Washington Post, WBIN-TV and Dartmouth College.

Candidates:  Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Moderator:  Charlie Rose, executive editor and anchor of Charlie Rose.  Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg TV and Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post joined Rose to pose questions.

Audience:  Over 860 people; tickets distributed among the four partners, approximately 40% to Dartmouth, 20% each to the other three, and some off the top to each of the campaigns.

Broadcast:  Nationally and internationally by Bloomberg Television, streamed online by, and broadcast throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts by WBIN-TV in Derry, NH.

Format:  90 minutes.  "...devoted to the single subject of the U.S. economy."  "The debate will be conducted in a roundtable format with candidates sitting side-by-side with the moderators, surrounded by the audience.  This unique debate format is intended to foster an interactive discussion between the candidaates on their economic and fiscal policies."  The debate included a segment where each candidate asked a question of another candidate of his or her choice.

Overview: Following his win in the Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando, FL several weeks ago, Herman Cain has risen to the top tier of candidates.  His 9-9-9 plan was a central focus of discussion, and it came under close scrutiny.  Cain rebutted a Bloomberg Government finding that his plan is not revenue neutral.  "The problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect," he stated.  Michele Bachmann argued that "the last thing you would do is give Congress another pipeline of a revenue stream."  "[W]hen you take the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details," she said.  Rick Santorum pointedly asked, "How many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand."

The candidate-to-candidate questions offered insights into the dynamics of the race.  Four of the eight questions went to Romney, the frontrunner.  Two went to Cain, the new top-tier candidate.  The questions were quite pointed, with one exception—Mitt Romney lobbed a softball to Michele Bachmann.

• Bachmann asked Perry: "How can we trust you to not go down the Obama way and overspend and pay for that spending with indebtedness on the backs of the next generations?"

• Cain asked Romney: "Can you name all 59 points in your 160-page plan, and does it satisfy that criteria of being simple, transparent, efficient, fair, and neutral?"

• Gingrich asked Romney: "...I think it’s about page 47 of your plan - that you have a capital gains tax cut for people under $200,000, which is actually lower than the Obama model...So, I’m curious, what was the rationale for setting an even lower base marker than Obama had?

• Huntsman asked Romney: "Since some might see you because of your past employment with Bain Capital as more of a financial engineer, somebody who breaks down businesses, destroys jobs, as opposed to creating jobs and opportunity, leveraging up, spinning off, enriching shareholders, since you were number 47 as governor of the state of Massachusetts, where we were number one, for example, and the whole discussion around this campaign is going to be job creation, how can you win that debate given your background?"

• Paul asked Cain about full auditing of the Federal Reserve: "Do you still stick by this, that that this is frivolous, or do you think it’s very important?  Sixty-four percent of the American people want a full audit of the Fed on a regular basis."

• Perry asked Romney: "Governor Romney, your chief economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, who you know well, he said that Romneycare was Obamacare. And Romneycare has driven the cost of small-business insurance premiums up by 14 percent over the national average in Massachusetts. So my question for you would be: How would you respond to his criticism of your signature legislative achievement?"

• Romney asked Bachmann: "What - what would you do - beyond the tax policies you describe - to get people back to work?"

• Santorum asked Cain: "My question is, since I think Herman Cain is giving naively a tool in his 999 plan of giving Washington a huge new tax burden - tax opportunity to get money through a sales tax, can we trust you that with your lack of experience that you won’t continually give Washington the ability to take freedom away from freedom-loving people here in the 'live free or die!' state?"

Exclusion of candidates and unequal time for candidates were problems.  The three candidates who have spent the most time campaigning in the state—Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer and longshot Fred Karger—were not on the stage.  Wes Hemings' analysis on his "Dawn of the Weak" blog found the Mitt Romney accounted for a bit more than 25-percent of the candidate speaking time.  As the Union Leader's John DiStaso wrote in his "Granite Status" column, "[T]his was not really a 'New Hampshire' debate.  It was a Washington, D.C.-style production that just happened to be held in New Hampshire."

1. See Debates at Dartmouth page.

2. Analysis by the website "Dawn of the Weak" of candidate talking time during the debate found that Romney had 16:10 of total talk time (25.63%) followed by Perry (8:49), Bachmann (8:17), Cain (7:36), Gingrich (6:19), Huntsman (5:47), Paul (5:13), and Santorum (4:53).