By Danny R. Johnson and Gina Yarbrough
SIMI VALLEY, CA–Mitt Romney’s aides and advisers wasted no time after Wednesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate castigating Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry for calling Social Security a “ponzi scheme.” Perry doubled down during the debate on his past statements of Social Security as a “ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.” But Romney — the former Massachusetts governor — and his campaign looked past the rhetoric, calling that a distraction from the substance of Perry’s position on the issue, which they said amounts to being in favor of ending the program.
During the debate at the Reagan Library hosted by MSNBC and Politico, Romney quickly took advantage of the opening Perry left when he made the incinerated statement and lunged at the opportunity.
“The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security,” Romney said. “We have always had, at the heart of our party, a recognition that we want to care for those in need, and our seniors have the need of Social Security. I will make sure that we keep the program and we make it financially secure. We save Social Security.”
A top Perry aide refused, under repeated questions from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and CNN, to rule out the idea that Perry would favor dissolving altogether the 76-year-old program that pays out benefits to seniors.
Perry never struggles with the death penalty
NBC News anchorman Brian Williams, the co-host of the debate, asked Perry about the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, without naming Willingham, or going at Perry armed with the science that undermined the prosecution’s case.
Williams simply asked in general if Perry had ever struggled with the idea that someone who was killed via capital punishment was innocent.
Perry’s response: “No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required.”
“But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.”
Williams plodded ahead with a sentimental follow-up, asking Perry to react to the fact that members of the audience applauded when hearing Perry has executed 234 individuals. Perry replied, “I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of — of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens — and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.”
But forensic and DNA scientists said Perry committed an innocent man to his death. For everything you need to know about Perry and Willingham, click here.
Michele Bachmann failed to hit a home run
When Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) won the August 13 Iowa straw poll, it was, in once sense, a triumphant day for Bachmann: She won the Iowa straw poll, which generated headlines about how she was a top-tier contender with a legitimate shot at the nomination. But August 13 was also the day that Texas governor Rick Perry decided to throw his hat into the race.
Ever since then, Bachmann has steadily faded. Perry shot to the front of the polls on the strength of his dual establishment/base appeal, while Bachmann sank back to third or fourth, alongside Ron Paul. Unable to capitalize on her straw poll momentum, she shook up her campaign staff, removing campaign manager Ed Rollins – who promptly declared the contest a two-man race between Perry and Bachmann.
Wednesday’s debate was Bachmann’s chance to show she had come up with some sort of a plan to regain some momentum. And despite a strong performance in past debates, she let the opportunity pass her by. While Perry and Romney sparred, a subdued Bachmann failed to get in any memorable lines and looked like a footnote that belonged with the also-rans, not the contenders.
Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) proved once again why he is true to form and is not afraid to speak truth to power — even when bashing Ronald Reagan.
Perry attempted to bust Paul at last night’s debate over Paul’s noisome resignation from Reagan’s GOP in 1987. Here’s how the exchange went:
PERRY: Speaking of letters, I was more interested in the one that you wrote to Ronald Reagan back and said I’m going to quit the party because of the things you believe in.
PAUL: Oh, I need an answer on that.
HARRIS: You’ve got a 30-second rebuttal, Congressman.
PAUL: I strongly supported Ronald Reagan. I was one of four in Texas — one of four members of Congress that supported Reagan in ’76. And I supported him all along, and I supported his — his — all his issues and all his programs.
But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene. Therefore, I support the message of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence, we have to be honest with ourselves. It was not all that great. Huge deficits during the 1980s, and that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald Reagan’s message. His message is a great message.
WILLIAMS: Funny thing about the mail. It kind of tends to live on forever.
You can expect several of the candidates such as Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman to drop out of the race over the next four weeks because of their poor showing and dwindling financial resources.
Gina Yarbrough is the Editor and Publisher of San Diego County News.
Danny R. Johnson is San Diego County News’ Washington, DC based National News Correspondent.