Newt Gingrich a Crowd Favorite, Ron Paul Sidelined at the Republican Debate

Just hours after some possible tide changing events in the presidential campaign, in which Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race, Newt Gingrich was visited by a ghost from his past, and Rick Santorum was pronounced the winner of the Iowa caucuses, the Final Four took center stage in the state of South Carolina where they debated who would be the best candidate to defeat President Barack Obama.

I was disappointed at the dull personalities of the candidates while watching the debate play out. Rick Santorum appeared to be the most prepared, as he vehemently attacked Romney and Gingrich as flip-floppers whose change their positions on issues for political gain. However, Santorum struck me as a bit rigid, awkward, and overly rehearsed. In response to a question about when the candidates will release their tax returns, Santorum came off modest but sounded the most insincere of the other three candidates.

Mitt Romney on the other hand maintained his usual tactic of directly attacking President Obama's economic policies and championing traditional American capitalism where the market is the best solution to address the suffering economy. For issues such as health care and abortion, Romney argued that health care in America should be designed to function as a consumer market as opposed to a government-run bureaucracy. In addition, as one who prides himself on his business track record, questions regarding his personal wealth seemed to throw him off. Regarding releasing his tax returns, Romney responded hesitantly and consented to making his tax returns public only because the Democrats will criticize him if he doesn't.

Newt Gingrich maintained a calm demeanor after his fiery response to a question on his extramarital affairs and appealed to his political track record during the Regan years and tenure as House Speaker (1995-1999) as critical factors that qualify him as the best candidate to represent the Republican Party. He seemed to be the crowd's favorite, receiving loud applauses for his crafty answers to Romney and Santorum's criticisms.

Ron Paul, however, did not receive as much floor time and this is possibly because his answers have become redundant. Steeping his campaign rhetoric in libertarian ideas, we almost know what to expect from him. Nonethless, as a moderator, Johnathan King should have ensured that all candidates received equal speaking time in the debate. Amidst this, Paul remained the most consistent and genuine out of all four candidates.

Although the candidates are all personally seeking the Republican nomination, there appeared an ideology divide where the three conservatives in Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich aggressively debated each other, while Senator Ron Paul on the libertarian fence received less criticism and even less floor time during the debates. In this divide, however, we can see a party solidarity among the candidates with the ultimate goal of defeating President Obama in November.

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