I’m at the Woodlands Resort and Conference Center in The Woodlands, TX, where Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich will face off one-on-one in about an hour. The entire debate will focus on entitlement spending and reform. Texas Patriots PAC is hosting the debate. I’ll have more later. Showtime is 7 pm central, and the debate is being aired live on CSPAN.
FreedomWorks’ Tabitha Hale, two seats down from me, just made an executive decision: Tonight’s official hastag is #newtcain.
Update: Belay that hashtag. The actual official one is now #caingrich.
Update: 40 minutes to showtime, the room is starting to fill up. Texas Patriots PAC president, Dr. Julie Taylor, says that there will about 600 in attendance.
Update: By the way, I’m also updating and tweeting out photos on a pair of twitter feeds – @texasbryanp and @PJTatler.
Update 6:46 pm: Rep. Steve King, R-IA, stands at the back of the room prior to the #caingrich debate. Rep. King is moderating tonight’s debate.
Update 6:55 pm: Texas Patriots PAC president, Dr. Julie Turner, has just gotten the festivities started.
Update 7 pm: Rep. King is setting the stage with a talk about the scale of our national debt. This debate will not be like the zillion previous debates. Once the moderators have delivered their remarks, Cain and Gingrich will debate entitlement spending and the Ryan budget for about 20 minutes. No gotchas, just a one-on-one discussion. It should be interesting to hear both candidates’ insights, especially in light of Gingrich’s early remarks characterizing the Ryan budget as “right wing social engineering.”
Update 7:08 pm: King’s intro isn’t getting rave reviews on twitter. Not sure how he could make our looming fiscal disaster “entertaining.” Get Spielberg to animate his charts? What?
Update: Gingrich is up first. Audio glitches getting in the way a bit – apparently CSPAN’s feed has a buzz, while in the room we’re getting feedback here and there. And now, to the wonkery…
Update: Gingrich and Cain agreeing on an awful lot. Ticket in the air?
Update: Cain just came out for a form of privatization on entitlements. Watch for Romney to attack that.
Update: Moderator question – What do we do about rising health care costs?
Cain: We have the world’s best health care (applause), but we have a cost crisis. We must use market drive, patient centered approaches. He would talk with doctors. Can’t micromanage out of Washington DC. Cites HR 3400 – health savings accounts, allow association health plans, loser pay laws (Texas just passed a set of those and a certain governor signed them into law, actually) to drive malpractice costs down.
Gingrich: History lesson, problem goes back to 1943 government salary caps. Then after an anecdote about McDonalds, lauds the debate format and himelf as Cain for being willing to talk about entitlement spending in a non-trivial way. Then cites his records as speaker for balancing the budget, reforming entitlements when he was in Congress. To honestly approach health care spending, we should abolish the CBO and get rid of its gimmickry.
Update 7:30: Cain punts to Gingrich. Odd. Very odd. Twitter is lighting up about it.
Update: Cain punted a question on defined benefit plans. He just didn’t seem to have any idea how to answer so he deferred to Newt. Weird. Now he seems to be getting his footing back now that he can talk about “getting involved with the Tea Party” and such.
Update: Newt – “Don’t let any experts in the room.” His ability to get specific and detailed without getting boring is pretty impressive. Not a teleprompter in sight.
Update 7:41: Cain hits Gingrich, says his ideas won’t solve the entitlement spending problem. Touts Chilean model for having personal Social Security accounts. First real daylight between the two candidates. Oh, and if Cain stays up the polls, watch for Romney to hammer this “threat” to Social Security.
Update: Newt – ‘anyone who doesn’t include choice for younger Americans on Social Security doesn’t have a serious solution to the problem.’
Update: Cain – ‘We’re not short on ideas to fix Social Security. We’re short on ways to educate the American people about those ideas.’ Says businesses could help change the paradigm, inform employees about SocSec.
Update 7:55: Newt, line of the night? ‘This president is about as accurate as Bernie Madoff’ when he talks about spending.
Update 8:02: Segment ends, final one begins – topic, Medicaid reform. So far, the debate format really showcases Newt Gingrich’s granular policy knowledge. His mind is encyclopedic. (I’d be surprised if any other candidate wants to debate him one-on-one like this.)
Update: Not a surprise, both candidates agree – repeal ObamaCare, block grant Medicaid to the states. Gingrich keeps score applause with strong, detailed answers.
Update: Newt – ‘this will be a big debate with the left, which has this view of everyone as weak and stupid.’
Update: Gingrich uses FedEx ability to track packages to slam gov’t for not being able to track illegals. Witty, sharp and true. Got a few standing o’s for that one.
Update 8:25: We’re in the home stretch now. Unless there’s a dramatic change in the dying moments, this has been a very substantive debate. Cain and Gingrich have shown each other, the audience and the American people great respect in addressing entitlements to such a level of detail, knowing that they are exposing themselves to attacks from Romney and from the Democrats. Gingrich has clearly “won” the debate in my opinion. He has been consistently more knowledgeable about everything, and more specific with his answers to our entitlement spending problems. Cain’s punts reinforce his image as a great speaker on broad ideas, but lacking detailed policy knowledge. Gingrich is in a class of his own on that.
Update 8:28: Cain says biggest surprise of the campaign has been the “nit-pickiness of the media.” Gets a good response when he says he “didn’t take the political correctness school.” Standing o for hammering media dishonesty. Cain’s best moment of the night. Now Cain leads a q with a joke to Gingrich about being “vice president of the United States.” Gingrich turns RED. Cain is a very strong closer.
Update 8:42: Debate over, we’re in the blogger lounge now awaiting the candidates. We should get a few minutes with Gingrich first, followed by Cain. I’m locked and loaded with a PJTV cam.