John Hayward | The Cain-Gingrich Debate

On Saturday night, Herman Cain? and Newt Gingrich? sat down for what was billed as a “Lincoln-Douglas style debate,” hosted by the Texas Patriots PAC and covered by CSPAN.  The candidates would be given ample time to respond in depth to questions about reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

As it turned out, Cain and Gingrich had substantially fewer disagreements than Lincoln and Douglas did.  In fact, they had only minor differences of opinion on how to go about implementing their reforms.  Both were firmly in agreement on the importance of block-granting Medicaid funds to the states, abolishing ObamaCare in favor of market-based health care reforms, and providing a way for younger workers to opt out of Social Security and into privately owned accounts.  Cain, of course, believes Social Security privatization will require his 999 Plan as a runway in order to achieve takeoff, as the 999 Plan does away with payroll taxes.

Neither candidate began a response with an express or implied cry of “You’re wrong!” or engage in the sort of verbal frenzy that ends with heated accusations about the sinister forces providing Mitt Romney with lawn care services.  These two were so collegial that I couldn’t help thinking they’d look great on a ticket together.  Cain had the most riotously funny line of the evening when, given an opportunity to ask a single question of his opponent, he thought for a moment and inquired: “If you were Vice President of the United States, what would you want the President to assign you to do first?”

There might not have been any strenuous disagreements between Cain and Gingrich, but there was a significant contrast in style.  Gingrich was far better prepared with facts, policy specifics, and knowledge of political history.  Cain actually took a mulligan when presented with a question about defined benefit contributions, asking Gingrich to go first while he put his own thoughts together.



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