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BLITZER'S BLOG: Perry, Romney and Reagan
October 19th, 2011
03:23 PM ET

BLITZER'S BLOG: Perry, Romney and Reagan

(CNN) - What struck me most about Rick Perry’s verbal assault on Mitt Romney at the CNN Western Republican Debate in Las Vegas was its contrast to the way Ronald Reagan used to conduct himself during debates.

The late president would never have gone after a fellow Republican in such a direct, personal way. If Reagan were going to attack a fellow Republican on something like the alleged hiring of illegal immigrants for lawn service, he would have had his aides handle it. He would have personally stayed away from the charge.

In all the debates back in the 1980s that I remember covering, Reagan almost always took the high road. He usually had a smile and clever line.

He had people who would handle the direct attacks in the spin room or elsewhere, the so-called dirty work of politics.

That’s because Reagan wanted to look presidential. He wanted to be seen as being above the usual partisan bickering.

In contrast, Perry, clearly eager to show he was regaining some political momentum, really went on the offensive against Romney. But in the process, he seemed less than presidential. He seemed more like a regular politician trying to score some points.

That might work in state or local politics, but not necessarily in a presidential contest.

I thought Romney handled the bitter exchange over his hiring of a lawn service that employed illegal workers rather well with two notable exceptions. He shouldn’t have appealed to Anderson Cooper, the moderator, to quiet Perry. That did not seem all that presidential, either. It made him look a bit weak. There are other techniques he could have used to rebut Perry.

And in defending his record on the controversial lawn service company, Romney blundered when he said: “I'm running for office, for Pete's sake. I can't have illegals.” He, of course, shouldn’t be hiring illegals at any time, not just when he’s running for office.

I suspect the Romney-Perry battle is only just beginning. They both have millions of dollars available for lots of very negative advertising. Get ready for that next phase.

RELATED VIDEO: Perry versus Romney at the CNN debate

Post by:
Filed under: 2012 election • Mitt Romney • Rick Perry • Ronald Reagan • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Logan Piercy

    Hey folks, Will likely be the U.S. greater off sticking to Syria's Assad?

    December 27, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  2. John

    With regard to foreign policy... Could you please ask the GOP which country they plan to Borrow money from and which country they plan to Bully or Battle next?

    My father never liked 'Tax + Spend' ideologies. I see the opposite is the 'Borrow + Bully' practices over the past decade.
    US gov has had to borrow (debt ceiling rise) to make up for the lack of revenue from the top 10% (the lowest rate since the 1930's). The beneficiaries from the battles in Irag and Afghanistan most likely are the defense contractors and their cronies who receive kickbacks.

    October 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  3. Patrick Ronan

    Every four years we hear candidates telling us what they will do if elected. The truth is they cannot do anything. All they can do is ask congress to introduce their plans and then try to get it passed. My question is, "Why does a candidate think he can convince congress to do what he wants when he could not convince them to do it while he was or is in congress?"

    October 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  4. Nell Okie

    Hi Wolf,

    Can the video portion of your segment on the LRA with John Prendergast and others be accessed?

    Thank you very much!

    October 20, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  5. Rich

    I don't think either of these guys showed a whole lot of class but right now the enemy is the other republican. In order to get elected one has to beat the other and the only way to do that is to knock the other guy off his pedestal. Just wait until the democrats go head to head with the republicans and the mud slinging will really start.

    None of these candidates are without sin. None of these guys or gals want to lose either. That leaves one other option and that is to cut your opponent off at the knees. That is how it works in Washington. It is never about what's good for the country it is about what is good for each politician. When all the dust settles it will be up to the American people to decide their own fate with regard to a new leader. Half of them are sure to be disappointed on election day. The other half within the next 4 years.

    October 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  6. Kim M Hunter

    There is a horrible dearth of Presidential Timber out there. No Regan or Clinton on the scene. We are left with the droppings of what now pass for Republican candidates or for the current Democrat President. I am ready to give up. I may vote for a third or fourth party just to find someone who has some sense to help this country. Cannot this country find anyone better than what we are now offered? Benjamin Franklin once said "...every now and then a little revolution is a good thing." I am ready for that now.

    October 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  7. Louis Phillips

    This is, I am afraid, a symptom of the degeneration of US politics. Almost all the attention of todays politicians is focused on their election or re-election. Very little has to do with governing or maintaining the image of the US in the eyes of the world. This makes them very open to manipulation, and has to a great extent cost them the respect of a lot of their constituents.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  8. Johnnie

    Goodbye Perry – Hello Romney!

    October 19, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  9. Johnnie

    Rick Perry's bully and brutish behavior was unacceptable for a national debate – he clearly demonstrated that he is NOT presidential material. I am switching my support to Romney.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  10. Marin

    That's because all Reagan (the actor) had going for him was had a smile and clever line. He never took on the difficult issues until his staffers had cleared the way. Nonetheless, he would be ashamed of what has become of the Republican party...

    October 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  11. Al Buddy

    We set a horrible example for the rest of the world. Who in there right minds could say this is the best the US can do?

    October 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  12. frank

    and nobody takes Michelle Bachman seriously anyway

    October 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  13. ted

    Perry should be ashamed of himself for going after Romney in that manner. Obviously he is no Ronald Reagan. I am ashamed as a Republican for him. That was enough to convince me that I'm going for Romney or Cain.

    October 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  14. JT

    Definitely voting for Romney. A vote for Perry is a vote for Obama in the general.

    October 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  15. M. Tatum

    I have a suggestion: It would be a simple thing to cut off the sound of the microphone for whomever was going overtime or taking undue privileges with another contestant in a debate like the one in Las Vegas. This would end the attack and argument. I wonder why the moderator did not do this with Perry when he was attacking Romney. He was so much less than the man he wanted to be. He belittled himself, the Republican Party, and our Country. Mitt Romney was so Presidential under the most adverse circumstances. He will make a great President that we can all be proud of and help get the Country back on it's feet, economically, just as he did with the Olympics.

    October 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  16. mike21954

    Why do they keep calling these things "Debates?" They're question and answer seasons.

    Let me know when they hold one that starts "Resolved that...." and the candidates have to defend or oppose the position the moderator took with facts.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  17. Linda

    Rick Perry has not been good to Texas. Maybe he's in it for the money. His connections in TX have landed him millions in real estate deals etc. Since 2008, we fork out $9,000 a month for his own private mansion. It goes on and on.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  18. Shane Botwin

    Nobody is doing a better job of re-electing Obama than Romney and Perry.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  19. Debby

    Wolf really disappointed about John King constantly knocking Romney over dribble. Listening to him on Sirus radio and he sounds like some kind of sour grape. What is he jealous he was never governor of Mass. his home state or what? John King sounds like he is getting personal and nasty himself.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. David

    Why don't they address real issues instead of petty bickering about who hired whom?

    October 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  21. Maria

    None of these candidates measure up to Ronald Reagan. They are not even fit to be in the same room with him. They are all pathetic, Mitt was brittle when the arrows came his way and started calling out to AC.....

    October 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  22. Markpro

    The more I see of these GOP comedic debates the more I know it's Obama for 4 more years.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  23. us1776

    Where's the Beef?


    October 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  24. JoeMichigan

    Does anyone think that the Republicans will ever find a suitable candidate before next election?

    October 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • RichIowa

      Nope. There's only two shopping months left before the cycle begins. There are very few Republicans with the money, recognition, and organization to jump in at this point and do well.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Joe

      Certainly the Democrats don't have a suitable candidate... He's already proven his worthiness...

      October 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • filthburger

      Nope. Romney is their only hope, unfortunately. they need someone moderate to gain the independents. a right winger won't do.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • wlv

      Definitely. This is the process, ugly or pretty as it may be! One will emerge who will be dramatically better than the current WH occupant.

      October 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • bill

      if they dug up reagan and stood him up on tv he could probably make more sense then the 10 of them put together.

      October 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Kim M Hunter

      I am sorry JoeMichigan, but you are already right. There will not be even one decent candidate for the next election for President. The show is already done and the ultimate candidate for the Republicans is so short of what it takes to defeat a president who has already won and is the current president. Not a chance of our choices. I guess the people who could really do the job no longer think it is a worthy goal. What a ruin...

      October 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  25. don

    If debates are going to occur why are they NOT truly moderated by debate stabndards? Over and over during the debates the rules are ignored and distracts from the messages. How many times does one candidate get to smear another (Perry & Santorum vs Romney) and the defender is NOT allowed to explain or defend themselves without being interrupted??? In TRUE debates those who break the rules are disqualified and forfeit the match.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • JimP819

      don – thanks for bringing the obvious to the forefront. I haven't seen a real debate at the presidential level in quite some time. These 'debates' are nothing like what we were taught in debate club. There really shouldn't be any arguing back and forth or even open discussion unless there is a time set apart for the candidates to do such.
      they sound like spoiled brats just wanting more, but what they won't get is my vote. Totally undecided except my vote WON'T go to the Demos.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
      • Messi

        it should have been ankle irons rtaher than platinum parachutes with the level of corrupt practices the previous govt performed, not that the current one has changed anything much for the benefit of the people who want create jobs, and help rebuild our once great little nation and get us back into the top 20 OECD nations again.Why is it Holden that you assume right wingers hate science and knowledge? Is it a blanket hatred? Or is it just a hatred of corrupted scientists and their phoney results?Are you basing your knowledge on the bible belt of America and some of those people having a belief in Creationism, and categorising them as right wingers? Would you consider a muslim capitalist a right winger? Their holy book describes embryology and cell structures and all manner of biological science. Is someone who believes in evolution too intelligent to be a right winger? Are all those capitalists who developed every advancement e.g. medicines, treatments, computers, software, fertilisers, efficiency enhancing or problem solving devices etc. and took them to market for the betterment of mankind whilst earning a buck for their efforts, are they all left wingers because they believed in a piece of science or knowledge, and hence they were obviously too bright to be Right winger creationist Neanderthals?

        April 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  26. rob

    Wonderful, to rebuke the GOP you have Sanders an avowed socialist ranting with typical left wing nut talking points. Bernie baby you and your left wingers have had your chance and failed, so you can knock off the blah, blah, blah. Wolf this is your fair and balanced "coverage". The American people are tuning you out. It is no wonder you have surrendered the 6:00 news slot to Fox.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  27. Sarah

    Reagan would have been ashamed at these RINOs bickering back and forth on stage.

    He would also be agreeing with a lot of what Ron Paul had to say, which you so conveniently ignore.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Mike

      Today's extreme Republicans would consider Reagan a RINO. He certainly would not stand a chance with the tea partiers. By far the debate's best moment was the silence in the room - followed by much hemming and hawing - after Paul brought up Reagan's arms-for-hostages deal.

      October 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  28. dennis ness

    Its amazing how we talk about electing the president, when constitutionally we cannot.

    When will Americans wake up?

    October 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Cumulonimbus

      The states determine how presidential electors are chosen. If you don't like it, fix it in your own state.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  29. HarvTy

    Put on your Big Boy Pants, Wolf. These men are passionate because there is so much at stake. Our current President seems determined to pander to the whiners and do-nothings who want a Nanny state to take care of them; all so that he can stay in a position of power. These men are driven and passionate about returning to traditional values of hard work and pride in accomplishment which will require Big Government to get the hell out of the way.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Mark

      Wrong, they lack class – and the comparison was with Reagan – did you miss that part? would you like to compare to Eisenhower? Are you implying they were less passionate? Romney and Perry came across not as passionate but more like a tawdry, cheap reality show.

      October 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Paul

      Ron Perry was very unpresidential in that debate .. really!!! .. i lost all respect for him after the debate ...

      a neutral observer ....

      October 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Mack Johnson

      These men are passionate because they want to save the country from all the evil Obama has brought??? Get your head out of the sand–these guys are seeking POWER that Obama won as a result of being elected. It is clear they have brain washed you with respect to their motives. Be assured these guys don't have the corner covered on traditional values or anything else.

      October 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
      • Ray

        Mack, your comments demonstrate a serious lack of judgement. First, you make it sound as if Mr. Obama was motivated by something more noble than POWER when he campaigned for the position of President, a nobleness you imply that the current candidates must be bereft of. Seriously? Let's see if I understand you correctly: Mr. Obama was rightfully elected President, and now that someone else is seeking that same election their motives are obviously less noble than Mr. Obama's? As if they were trying to steal his POWER? C'mon! It appears that YOU are the one who has been brainwashed. The next president will be "elected" no differently than Mr. Obama was; and anyone seeking election to the presidency of the United States is, by virtue of the very act, seeking for POWER. I only point that obvious fact out because your position makes it painfully clear that someone in America actually doesn't understand that. To your final point, the fact is, Mr. Romney is unsurpassed by any presidential candidate in the history of this nation in his example of living traditional values. He is certainly not alone in that corner, but none is his superior.

        October 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Marin

      "These men are passionate because there is so much at stake" – then they need to stop behaving & sounding like petulant little boys. They should put on THEIR big boy panties and deal it – they are making themselves out to be nothing but buffoons.....

      October 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  30. dianne sawyer

    These guys are professional idiots and they only thing they value is getting elected at ANY COST. I have never seen so many presidential candidates change their opinion, platform, policies, etc. so quickly. Thank God for Ron Paul. Reagan would be proud!

    October 19, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Cumulonimbus

      Ron Paul makes some good points, but some of his views are so far out of main stream he really is not electable. We cannot afford to withdraw from the world because we are a part of it.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  31. Nick Nicoara

    Perry is nothing but a bully. Remember how he tried to bully Ron Paul at the last debate. And I can't imagine how nobody picks on Perry for calling Cain a "brother" for a couple times. And of course, Ron Paul is again blacked out by the media ...
    The right answer from Cain when you asked him about trading hostages should have been: "we do NOT negotiate with terrorists ... We shall send an extraction team and get back our soldier. As for the people at Gitmo, they'll be there until they will have their trial..." .

    My two cents ...

    October 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  32. Gabriella

    I think it's a shame that so many people have taken out of context the comment that Mit Romney made regarding the illegal aliens that were hired by the lawn company he hired. It's obvious that he was saying that in addition to the fact that he doesn't agree with illegal aliens working in the US he is running for Governor. Anyone in his/her right mind would understand the implications. Seriously? Are you people so desperate to go after such trivial nonsense? In my opinion if that's the worst thing you can come up with then Obama better start looking for a new job.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  33. Griff

    "Dialog, I love listening to it. It really say's it all. Conflict, just getting better, and better as they face each other under fire!"

    October 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  34. John

    Mr. Blitzer, I think you are correct. I'm a native Texan and living in Houston, but Perry has not been an outstanding governor. He passed a bill giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens, who, upon graduating from college on our dollars, are now unemployable unless they have illegal and counterfeit social security cards.

    Perry is soft on criminal aliens. He won't get my vote.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  35. Independent Voter

    Everyone has made a great deal of Herman Cain's being the only one with a sense of humor. Nice – makes him likeable from a personal side but we need people who know what's going on. He needs to put forward something other than his 999 plan. This just show's his inability to understand the issues and offer serious solutions to some serious problems.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  36. JC Ramirez

    Dear Mr. Blitzer: I have a suggestion. You may not be able to do it because reason I don't like to mention for obvious reasons, but it is really worth to plant the seed: I will be an invaluable CREDIBILITY tool for the information level of your wide viewing audience if you could arrange CNN to CONSTANTLY place, in the corner of the screen, the "TRUE ANALYZER" meter your staff uses to measure the level of accuracy of politician's declarations / answers when ask about, OR any hot issue already DEBUNKED is discussed.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  37. vic , nashville ,tn

    Ronald Reagan always took a high road. For that 1984 nation gave him big victory.

    Now republicans talk about Reagan but they don’t follow what Reagan taught them. We have many republicans with dignity, smart but they don’t want to run for office. Reason is their party.

    “I told the company, you can't hire illegals, and I’m running for office for Pete's sakes”
    This is the line I am posting on every CNN blog today. And made my mind not to vote for Romney. Its not about illegal immigrants its about his credibility

    October 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • don

      Perry shows his desperation and you show your blind hate towards Romney for some unknown reason. Who actually hires a company to do contract work on their property and then validate if the company's employees are legal or not? Noboddy!! Because there is no way to do that; asking will only get you lies by the employer. Grow up and accept it, Romney is indeed the best candidate and by a huge margin.

      October 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Cumulonimbus

      That's silly–When did this event happen? Was he running for office when he sent that company packing?

      October 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  38. Brandon

    Rick Perry is Finished I'm going with Romney.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • eric calderone

      If you are going with Romney, you are GONE!

      October 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
      • Ray

        It will be those who see Romney for who he is and vote for him that will save this nation.

        October 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  39. Katty

    I was so distracted by the uncalled for animosity displayed by Rick Perry last night.....When Perry first entered the race I had high expectations for him – I don't know why, maybe all the hype and suggestion of white knight on his charger...anyway, he certainly has not lived up to the hype. I am beginning to think he has so many negatives he tries to cover them up with his constant, and uncalled for attacks on Romney. Perry does not wear well. His physical stance reminds me of the high-school bully just waiting to pick a fight. With his solid backing on the immigration issues and bickering just doesn't do anything for me.

    October 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  40. Keith Travis

    I notice on the debate last night that Anderson Cooper and panel didn't address the remarks about President Obama's Aunt and Uncle over here illegally or not made by Michele Bachman when the issue of immigration is so important to the american people.Gary Tuckman needs to fact check that.

    October 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

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