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November 10th, 2011
01:03 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: The year of the debate

By CNN’s Wolf Blitzer

(CNN) - It’s pretty amazing how significant the Republican presidential debates have proven to be this year. They have clearly shaped attitudes in rather dramatic ways.

Presidential historians may write one day that this was the year of the debate.

There already have been so many memorable moments – many that the candidates would certainly like to forget.

Last night in Michigan may have been the most memorable and awkward debate moment ever.

That was when Rick Perry had a brain freeze for nearly 60 seconds and forgot the third agency of the U.S. government he would like to eliminate, even though he had routinely cited those three agencies in his campaign stump speech (Education, Commerce and Energy).

But there have been several other moments, including that nasty exchange at the CNN debate in Las Vegas between Perry and Mitt Romney over illegal immigrants working on Romney’s lawn, and that moment at the CNN debate in Tampa, Florida, when some audience members applauded and shouted “yeah” when I asked Ron Paul if we should let an uninsured 30-year-old die.

All of which underscores how important these debates have proven to be. Millions of people watch the actual debates, and tens of millions of people wind up watching those one-minute highlight clips.

Perry entered the race for the GOP nomination nearly three months ago with incredibly high expectations. But his poll numbers have collapsed, largely because of his weak debate performances.

In contrast, Romney’s front-runner status has been steady, in part because of his impressive debate performances.

And Newt Gingrich’s recent slow but solid climb has certainly been helped by his debate performances.

The bottom line: If you want to be president of the United States, you better be prepared to debate.

RELATED: Five things we learned from Wednesday's GOP debate

Follow Wolf Blitzer on Twitter: @WolfBlitzerCNN

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Filed under: 2012 election • Debates • Republicans • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Helen

    you all keep reporting that OBoma is campaigning on our dime so what is Bouchman Paul and Huntsman doing they get paid for their jobs in Washington and out on the road everyday Making them selves out to be idiots Perry is using Texas moneys they ball should be required to leave there jobs to run for this job The GOP has not one person out there remotely qualified to be out there any way. but hopefully the American people are smarter than to vote anyone of them into our highest job Heaven help us if one of the GOP gets the Whitehouse We had better start preying they don't

    November 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Jim P

    Seriously Wolf and CNN:
    Michelle Bachman? Do you guys really think she and her soundbits and of significant news value?
    Your better off chasing Palin, at least her stuipidity is comical. Ms Bachmans opinion is irrelevant.
    She a has been who wishes she could be president and cant stay away from the camera.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Griff

    "Debate's! What is Cain talking about? Georgia, Alabama, and most of the south are also failed states in the USA.

    November 23, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  4. Aldo

    Wolf – how about asking the Republican candidates whether they feel that signingthe Norquist oath is tantamount to "mental reservation" conflicting Congressmen in their carrying out their U.S. Constitutional oath of office and if not, why not? And also whether any of them has signed that pledge?

    November 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  5. RICK

    wolf–the last debate you hosted was, ok. but one important thing i did'nt like about it was that, they, ( the candidates) never honored the time limit they were given. and frankly, wolf, i felt as though you lost ontrol of the debate. i ask you this. will you make it absolutely clear to the republican candidates, that they are to abide to the time limits to their response..please don't let the debate turn into a circus again as it did during the last debate you hosted....i'm not trying to be mean to ya , wolf, but hold their hands to the fire, and do your best to nail them down to the questions you ask.

    November 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  6. Kim M Hunter

    Wolf, you did a fine job of pointing out the need for fine debates. Or the lack there ove. Keep it up and we will finally know just whom has the ability to really run for being President of the United States. Thank you Sir.

    November 14, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  7. Pat . D.

    Perry stumped with the 3 programs he would cut? really? i have heard his sledhammer approach, and his wrecking ball approach,, but prior to the debate i have never heard Perry say he wanted to end– the 3 he can't remember. i think you have your facts mistaken Wolf. i think you are thinking about someone else,, the same candidate that other candidates are parroting because the things he has been saying are becoming popular. the same candidate that is being censored when he wins polls (internet and straw) oh? wait isn't that Ron Paul 2012....

    November 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  8. Mike Rollins

    Please add me to the list of people who want to know why CNN is deliberately ignoring two term former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Unlike any other Republican candidate, Governor Johnson is promising to immediately submit a balanced budget in 2013. As governor, Johnson proved his commitment to limited, responsible government by vetoing more legislation than all of the other 49 governors combined. Prior to becoming governor, Johnson built a one man handyman business into one of New Mexico's largest construction companies–a company with over a thousand employees. In his personal life Governor Johnson is a fitness buff who has run dozens of marathons, competed in triathlons, and even climbed Mount Everest. My personal belief is that Governor Johnson is the most qualified candidate for President in at least a generation or two. Why is CNN deliberately, and repeatedly ignoring such an outstanding candidate?

    November 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  9. Griff

    "Do you ever listen to yourself , Wolf? Stop talking about what Obama is spending. and think about what he has wasted so far! 'There are no new jobs!' All Obama has done is increase washington!!! Are you listening???
    You know how much 'The Obama's regime ' has grown, and you continue to ignore it. Why?? You have no customers for what you conti nue to produce, so why do you think thingds have changed??"

    November 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  10. Charles Frohman


    Why is Governor Gary Johnson, a candidate PPP shows tied with Governor Huntsman at 1%, not invited to CNN's Heritage debate in Washington, D.C., while Huntsman is invited? Surely you're not copying CBS and the South Carolina GOP, who are using Real Clear Politics' average, which excludes Governor Johnson from the poll, thus rendering it impossible for the popular, budget- and tax-cutting, job-creating, socially-tolerant, twice-elected governor from even qualifying. The invention or manipulation of criteria by the media and the RNC to exclude Gary Johnson from the debates has led to the creation of the "Gary Johnson Rule", the rule that if your name is Gary Johnson, you're not invited. So, CNN, what variation of the Gary Johnson rule are you using to deny GOP voters a choice that includes the governor?

    And why does the Gary Johnson Rule exist? Is it because alone among the candidates Gay will submit the 43% cut required to bring the budget to balance? Is it because alone among the candidates he will abolish the "guilty-until-proven-innocent" income tax, leaving us with a sales tax we could control with prudent shopping? Or is it the fact that alone among the candidates, only Gary is socially tolerant, not wanting to jail mothers for abortions, not wanting to jail marijuana users, not wanting to throw immigrants over a wall at our southern border, not wanting to give up liberty for security, and not buying into the need to start a war over every conflict? Why are you excluding him? Known as Governor Veto while governor, Mr. Johnson has by far the best resume for president.

    Let the GOP primary voters have a chance to hear him out in the debate!

    November 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • R

      He has never voted to raise taxes.
      He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
      He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
      He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
      He has never taken a government-paid junket.
      He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
      He voted against the Patriot Act.
      He voted against regulating the Internet.
      He voted against the Iraq war.
      He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
      He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

      Ron Paul for POTUS

      November 11, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  11. HardyM

    Did you know Governor Johnson debated his opponent about 30 times? Johnson is only candidate with positive favorable rating in home state. Candidate with best job creation record. Only candidate promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in 2013. Only candidate to be polling above Huntsman and Santorum... and tied with Cain at 2% about 5 CNN polls ago...

    ...but then CNN mysteriously dropped Johnson from all polls since then and have never invited him to any of their debates even though he's qualified for them on his record as a Republican Governor of New Mexico and in CNN's own polls (until they dropped him). What gives CNN? Who's pulling your strings?

    November 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  12. Griff

    "So do you think Colyn Powell is going to join the run for the whiter-house? I do!!! After just 15minutes of quizing him last night, I know I had him hooked!"

    November 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  13. jj

    President Obama 2012!

    November 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  14. Matt

    Nah, Perry is not the most awkward debate moment ever. Several involving Dan Quayle and Richard Nixon probably beat out Rick Perry.

    November 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  15. Ralph_Indy

    Two things. I have seen the "brain freeze" go from 42 seconds to 60 seconds. Will it become long as time goes on? Also I notice in any of these postings you always get Ron Paul supporters who say all of the same things about him and complain about the fact he doesn't get attention.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Griff

    "So why doesn't Colyn run?? I don't want and I don't think the USA want, another runner in the race that won't even go in the stalls!"

    November 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  17. Andrew

    How about you mention the only candidate willing to speak what he believes, the only candidate to vote consistently for 30 years. If Ron Paul doesn't get elected, I will have lost all faith in Americans. Our political process is run by the media, and the people of this nation simply vote for the person they see the most on television.

    Stop blacking out Ron Paul.

    November 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  18. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Watching that debate would be like recieving one hundred non-stop 12,000 volt electrical shocks, having your fingers cut off, and your brain slowly drained of all fluids through a bamboo straw and your head dunked in sub-zero icy waters and then a 10 ton elephant sit on your chest – and then survivng. No thanks. I don't need to see, hear, listen or read a transcript of any single thought that comes from the hateful mouth or empty head of a Republican.

    There should be a law against Republican debates making it a felony punishable by mutilation and beheading for any person or thing to actually participate in a Republican debate.

    If you are anything other than a brainless, middle-class hating Republican, then why on earth would you subject yourself to such rubbish?

    Seeing a Republican on TV causes me to get on my knees and beg God Almighty for forgiveness for allowing such hatred to enter my sight and mind. I always have to go take a scalding hot shower afterwards just to make sure I get "it" all off.

    November 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  19. hughster1

    Wolf – thanks for featuring Top Story! Weekly's Rick Perry video on your show! For those of you who missed it – here's a link:

    November 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  20. Cody

    Perry is learning that you can't become president on reputation alone any more. The days of electing presidents based on their hair style, or who you could have a beer with, are over.

    You have to bring ideas, ground breaking ideas that will help the nation. I have yet to see any come from this lineup of GOP candidates.

    November 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  21. Griff

    |I also looked at myself three months ago, and thought what good am I doing at my old legion, so I joined another and was given a high-five from one young lady (young enough to be my daughter) on my first evening. Tomorrow will be my second and hope to do as well! Hillary can do the same if she runs in Perry or Cains place as a Republican, and tells Wiiliam to take a hike on this one!|

    November 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  22. Trace

    Hey Wolf, How very news worthy of you to pull out ALL the most embarrassing moments of all the republican candidates and display it on CNN this afternoon. Another small minded act that only hurts. Wouldnt it be a real laugh riot if someone put together one showing all of your mistakes over the past. I bet you would be incensed over it. How about you quit tearing down folks and try to stay focused on some good worthy news. Wonder if you can?

    November 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm |

    The year of the debate?! Yeah right! The great debates, were Obama v. Clinton, hands down. The 08 GOP debates weren't that bad either.....They were only half bat ish then, NOW......for get about it.

    Obama 2012!!!!!

    November 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  24. Rich

    Very poor selection

    November 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  25. David

    Brain freeze? Writing on your hand? Consistent gaffes? These are horrible things!!! A person with intellectual command is not "holier than thou," as one CNN contributor described it. That person has an intimate grasp on the requested information and does need to remember it. I know my name, address and phone number the same why I know the branches of government, the definition of gerrymandering and the office of the vice president. People like Perry are cramming information as fast as they can because they're incompetent. Most of these GOP hopes are not interested in knowledge but objectify it for personal gain, and are a disgrace to a here and now information age (not a principled age) where knowledge is essential. Perry's "freeze" was nothing more than a lack of intellectual firepower and achievement, which misrepresents the youth of this nation and the future of its genius and competitiveness.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  26. Bill

    I watched every debate. They all seem so positive and all seem to have an answer to economic issues. As far as I can tell, these folks are telling us that all presidents for the last 40 years were incompetent. Flat tax talked about it in the past, trickle down economics applied in the past, smaller government talked about it but never implemented. Wall street, bankers and all that bull talked about, but never addressed by any party past or present. The real issue, unemployment due to cheap Chinese imports, no one other than Romney took a real stand. Presidential candidates and presidents have all the answer and promise a blue moon but never deliver, they just blame congress. Bottom line, if there is a change, its going to me a white guy replacing a black man and that is about it. We are screwed.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  27. Dave

    "It’s pretty amazing how significant the Republican presidential debates have proven to be this year."

    CNN was well aware of that part already. That's why you continue to give the Republican Party an excuse to be in the news. You WANT them to be. THEY want to be. It's obvious.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  28. Alex

    Hey Wolf, why so biased???? No positive coverage of Ron Paul. He always seems to say the smartest things in the debates. He is by far the most intellectual candidate. Rick Perry even tried to get Ron Paul to bail him out when he messed up at the debate, but Ron Paul doesn't give bail outs.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  29. government cheese

    These are not debates. Thirty seconds is not enough time to delve into the thick of issues. Form over substance is what the mindless, uninformed 'American Idol' voters demand. How do you think Obama got elected?

    November 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  30. Patti

    Wolf..........Perry did no worse than you did on Jeopardy!

    November 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  31. realitybites

    Obviously Perry has a problem w/ the dept of education b/c it soo failed him . I honestly wonder is a braincell deficiency could be the culprit. Reagan had an excuse, Alzheimers. What is going on iin Rick's head? And I'm being totally serious about this. Is it chemical or neruological or both?

    November 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  32. 1crusader

    The debates have given voters a pretty good picture of who these candidates are; and if you are middle class or disadvantaged, their ideas and policies( what few there are) are not beneficial to you, but in many ways hurtful; but if you are financially well-off, these are your guys.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  33. BD70

    Well Perry did say that if he became President we wouldn't hear a peep out of Washington DC.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  34. manny oliver

    Is this the best GOP has? I never told anybody running for GOP president could look worst then George Bush.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  35. jon

    Actually, all of these Republicans come off as not the brightest lights on the block. And, I am positive that, if any one of them actually gets elected to the high office, they will just rip us a new one like before anyway.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  36. InVT

    It hasn't been a debate. It has been 'how much can I trash Obama' and 'how can I out-crazy everyone' meetings.
    In between booing active duty soldiers and cheering at the thought of letting the poor die, it has been a never ending stream of mindless rhetoric and outright lies.
    Sadly, it seems it is the best the Republicans have to offer.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  37. us1776

    What I saw last night was pretty pathetic.

    We had better debaters in high school than any of those in last night's debate.

    Pretty sad.


    November 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  38. Rich

    That is a given Wolf but if it was not for the Ah-Ha and the i gotcha moments these debates would be one big snooze fest. None of these folks are really taking about anything different. They have catchy 999 plans and 2010 zero plans but what it boils down to is the same thing it has always been just a different formula to take money from those that have it to pay for those that don't. If a person has no income then what can you take from them? There is no 9 percent to get because it does not exist. We would be no better off with a flat tax then the current system. The only logical thing to do is to cut out the loop holes for everyone.

    Unfortunately cutting the loopholes would be cutting their own throat because none of the wealthy would vote for them so they have to come up with some other concept to try and win favor. The concept does not have to be real or even workable it just has to be something different to fool the masses. 999 today would turn into 101010 tomorrow and so on. These folks are talking about making cuts in government but at the same time they are talking about promising more government programs. They would be replacing one cut with another deficit.

    None of the republicans are talking about getting out of the Middle East either. Remember who's administration got us in to Iraq to begin with. His initials are George Bush. Over 10 years later and 10 trillion dollars later we are still playing in the sand. Terrorists are still attacking and many thousands of people are dead. They simply moved around the globe. Only a hand full of people attacked America on 9-11 and they died onboard those aircraft they high jacked. Bush and company in a knee jerk reaction attacked Iraq who had nothing to do with 9-11. This was the republicans who lead the charge. After all of this they want back in the presidential drivers seat with some fairy tale concept of changing the tax code and all of a sudden they expect America to get in line behind them again. Sorry folks but that is a No SALE. Nothing has changed in their policy and nothing has changed in their agenda. They are the same republicans playing the same old games.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  39. RR

    There's but one word that comes to mind when considering the Teapublican slate of candidates on that stage last night–pathetic. Once the Republican Party was one of decency and practical conservatism, one worthy of respect and trust. It's now become one of slogans, amateurism and cultural warfare bordering on wacky. Sad day for them; sad day for America.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  40. Mark

    This is now a 2 horse race....Romney vs Gingrich. The nod will go to Romney simply because Gingrich is unelectable and the republicans know it.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  41. mookie

    Ron Paul is the man!!! Everyone I know is voting for him this year, including many people who voted for Obama last year. Don't believe the major networks, Washington is using their influence to black him out of receiving fair coverage!

    November 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  42. scooter

    If the idea of the endless debates was meant to show case a welcome alternative to President Obama it is failing miserably. They seem to have all looked into their tea leaves and utterly failed to understand where the average American person stands. Average America is done with ideological clap-trap. We need realistic solutions to real problems, not some rehashing of policy's that have never worked in real life. So far they have proposed no realistic solutions, only microwaved left overs. And continuing, on a seemingly unending basis, to show us the same left-overs is not making us think any more highly of them.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  43. ditch digger

    Debates happen when people disagree. Hasn't happened yet. This is a dog and pony show at best.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  44. Phil in KC

    I suppose I should watch them. Problem is, I'd just end up throwing something heavy at my TV and I like my big screen too much. Once upon a time, I could watch a political debate with an open mind. But they've just gotten so extreme that I can't stand it any more.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  45. George

    Historians may one day write how this was the turning point in American history back to a government which followed the constitution, away from an expansionist government and a world police foreign policy.

    Ron Paul is quickly becoming the last chance we have to steer ourselves from the oncoming cliff of debt and virtually worthless currency.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  46. Russ

    This is the dumbest bunch of GOP candidates the country has ever seen. They make George W. look like a rocket scientist. All their ideas for the economy have been examined by experts and they all agree none of them will work. All they do is repeat rhetoric and trash Obama with untruths and slanderous statements. It will be really sad if one of these fools actually becomes President.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  47. FrankinSD

    Is it may imagination, or do American voters seem to like President Obama better the more they see of the alternatives?

    November 10, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  48. howard bartels

    Wolf...pls stop feeding paul regula soft ball questions that allow him to pontificate democratic talking points without backing his comments with facts.Alex responses are more thooughtful..Paul is so non credible......there are other democratic advisers that would better serve your program. this from an independt fan.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  49. Jim

    Perry debating Obama

    It would be very interesting to see Rick Perry winning the nomination and debating Obama. Perry's communication's director doesn't seem to grasp the need for Perry to pursue a crash course in debating and public speaking...probably at Texas A & M University.

    He probably will see this need later, in hindsight, then it would be too late! Oops!!!! If He's to debate Obama, then this is necessary as of NOW. PERIOD.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

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