Saturday night's Gingrich-Cain debate in Texas was a departure from the typical debates of the past few weeks.
During a 90-minute session, the candidates addressed the topics of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, articulating the depth of their ideas without absurd time restraints that usually leave viewers with too many unanswered questions.
Gingrich and Cain agreed on quite a bit, both placing a heavy emphasis on themes of personal responsibility, keeping government bureaucrats out of the decision-making processes of individuals, the importance of personal choice, and the potentiality of the individual without the intrusion of big-daddy government.
Cain's emphasis on his successful business career once again reminded viewers that he is a man whose understanding of the free market came from living and breathing it.
Although he has run for office before, there is something about Cain that never screams "politician" and instead consistently shouts "practical problem-solver."
In addition to his former leadership position in Congress as the architect of the "Contract with America," Gingrich reminded viewers of his role as a small-business owner.
His political career certainly makes him seasoned, but Gingrich's small-business experience places him in touch with hard-working entrepreneurs across the country, and is hence quite significant.
Some of Cain's shining moments featured his admonishment of liberal scare tactics regarding Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal and his declarations that "We must go from an entitlement society to an empowerment society" and "We have the best healthcare in the world. We have a healthcare cost problem."
Gingrich's desire to abolish the Congressional Budget Office, data-rich articulation of entitlement solutions, and salute to American entrepreneurs via his assertion that "In almost every part of the private sector, someone is doing something brilliant," were home runs with the Texas Tea Party audience.
I found the debate to be refreshing for many reasons. Gingrich and Cain left out the childish bickering, opting instead for a respectful, mature discourse filled with specific solutions, as well as lessons learned and strides made via their distinct records.
There was no kindergarten-style finger-pointing or talking point-driven attacks. Instead, there were plenty of details, a clear focus on calling out the atrocities of the Obama agenda, and just enough spontaneous humor to remind Americans that the politicians they may vote for are still real people.
Gingrich and Cain agreed on plenty with respect to policy, but showcased very different strengths and styles of delivery.
Gingrich's strengths lie in his calm poise, his effortless command of specifics, and his ability to answer just about anything in a way that continually leaves me impressed with his attention to detail.
Cain's down-to-earth approachability, confidence in his business record, and honest willingness to defer to Gingrich when he needed a minute or two to think a question through, left me with the feeling that he will tell us what he really thinks, not what he thinks we want to hear. Both strengths are important and led both candidates to shine.
I also couldn't help but ponder that when it comes to 2012, it is the combination of the strengths of those two men that Americans have been hungry for.
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