Most of the questions raised during CNN's Republican Primary Debate Monday ranged from neutral to frivolous, although moderator John King slipped an obnoxious one in toward the end. King asked former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty which nomination for vice president during the 2008 campaign was better, Biden or Palin?
"Governor Pawlenty to you. Look back on 2008 and the process. President Obama made a pick. Senator McCain made a pick. Who made the best choice?" The question echoed liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews from back in 2007, when he asked the Republican field "would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?"
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Not surprisingly, CNN managed to fit in a jab at the Tea Party. The network allowed a concerned, self-identified "mainstream Republican" to ask the candidates if they would be influenced too much by the Tea Party – framing the grassroots movement as a sort of fringe political identity.
King followed up the audience member's question by asking Rick Santorum "are you concerned at all about the influence of the Tea Party?" He also pressed Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann to "address his concerns that...the influence of the Tea Party somehow pushes him out" of the Republican debate.
Earlier in the debate, King challenged Pawlenty on the positive effect that lowering taxes has on the job market, asking "where's the proof that just cutting taxes will create jobs?" He followed by asking where the jobs were after the Bush tax cuts.
Some of the more frivolous questions drew mockery from the internet masses, as King attempted to liven up the debate by closing and opening segments by asking "this-or-that" questions about pop culture and food, among other things, to make the candidates seem more personable.
King also invited Texas Congressman Ron Paul to praise the Obama administration's economic policies. "Has [Obama] done one thing – has he done one thing right when it comes to the economy in this country?" King asked.
A local political reporter also got the chance to press Herman Cain on his views toward Muslims serving in his administration. "Are American Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christians or Jews?" he asked.
A transcript of some of the questions from the debate, which aired on June 13 at 8 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
JOHN KING: Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics -- and as you do so -- who say 5 percent every year is just unrealistic. And as you do so, where's the proof -- where's the proof that just cutting taxes will create jobs? If that were true, why, during the Bush years, after the big tax cut – where were the jobs?
TERRY PFAFF, former New Hampshire state senate candidate: Well, my question is that I am a New Hampshire native and I've been an active Republican for years from a town committee chairman, Republican chairman, Merrimack County, vice chairman, all the way up to 2004 delegate for President Bush.
My question is, how will you convince myself – I'm not a libertarian Republican, I'm not a Tea Party Republican. I'm just a mainstream Republican. And we need both the independents and mainstream Republicans to win in November. How can you convince me and assure me that you'll bring a balance and you won't be torn to one side or the other from any faction within the party? You'll have to have a balanced approach to governing to solve our serious problems.
KING: (to Santorum) But are you concerned at all about the influence of the Tea Party?
KING: (to Bachmann) I know you agree, Congresswoman. So help the gentleman. Address his concerns that the Tea Party somehow – the influence of the Tea Party somehow pushes him out?
JOSH MCELVEEN, senior political reporter, WMUR: While we're on the topic of faith and religion, the next question goes to Mr. Cain. You recently said you would not appoint a Muslim to your cabinet. Then you kind of backed off that a little bit and said that you would first want to know if they're committed to the Constitution. You expressed concern that, quote, "a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country." Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christians or Jews?
JENNIFER VAUGHN, WMUR: Thanks, John.
Senator Santorum, staying with you for a moment, if I may, you are staunchly pro-life. Governor Romney used to support abortion rights until he changed his position on this a few years ago. This has been thoroughly discussed. But do you believe he genuinely changed his mind, or was that a political calculation? Should this be an issue in this primary campaign?
KING: Governor Romney, let me give you -- take -- take 20 or 30 seconds, if there's a Republican out there for whom this important, who questions your authenticity on the issue?
JOHN DISTASO, senior political reporter, New Hampshire Union Leader: Thank you, John.
Congressman Paul, this is for you. John, if you don't mind, I'd also like to hear from Governor Romney and a couple of the candidates, because it relates to a specific New Hampshire issue with a national question.
Here in New Hampshire, there is a popular bill that is being considered by our state legislature that would restrict the state's power to seize private land to build a power plant or a transmission facility. Should governments at any level be able to use eminent domain for major projects that will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil?
DISTASO: Governor Romney, you're a property owner in New Hampshire. You are a New Hampshire property owner, but you also are for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. There are a lot of people in the state who are concerned about this project, but they also want to have energy independence. How do you feel about that?
KING: All right. It is likely that the Republican nominee for president is standing on this stage tonight. If you win the nomination, you'll have to make the choice that a nominee makes, and that is picking a running mate. Governor Pawlenty to you. Look back on 2008 and the process. President Obama made a pick. Senator McCain made a pick. Who made the best choice?