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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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Debate Continues After Candidates Exit Stage


Candidates tackled domestic policy, among other topics.

Even after the candidates stepped off the stage at the Reagan Library's Air Force One Pavilion, the debate, and the cameras, continued to roll.

Campaign managers, political analysts, debate guests and even a few candidates themselves kept the conversation going post debate.

Who won the debate was the question heard around the spin room as supporters of each candidate voiced their opinion on the night's frontrunners.

While many saw Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the clear winners of the night, R.C. Hammond, spokesman for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich saw his guy as the winner of the evening's GOP debate.

"My guy won tonight," he exclaimed to a few journalists.

But judging by the size of the crowds surrounding Romney and Perry's people, they were the apparent frontrunners. Romney and Perry hashed it out throughout the Reagan Foundation Centennial Debate, going head to head for the first time since Perry entered the race.

However, according to some, the head to head battle between the apparent frontrunners might help out Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  According to her former chief strategist Ed Rollins, tonight's debate didn't have any bearing on Bachmann's place in the race.

"There was enough beating up of each other tonight that she didn't have to get in it. Never interrupt your enemy when they're in the process of destroying themselves is an old adage," said Rollins.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was the first candidate to speak out for himself  post debate, tackling the political records of his opponents as well as letting everyone know that he still sees himself as the guy to vote for.

"Absolutely I have a chance. Our numbers are up, our enthusiasm is up. Just like this debate, everyone focuses on who's ahead in the polls and who's ahead in the polls is who people are focused on. Is it a surprise that the discussion after tonight's debate is going to be about two people? No, because they got asked 70% of the questions," said Santorum.

According to political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, debate "winners" and "losers" are often perpetrated by the media but despite that fact, people still want to know who went home with the gold.

"We have an adversarial political system, people look for a winner and a loser. But one debate out of five in the next 15 days, let alone a year out from the election, does not make a winner or a loser," explained Bebitch Jeffe.

Still guests of the debate had their opinions on the outcome, and they varied just as much as the campaign managers in the spin room.

"I go with Herman Caine. I like his plan," said debate attendee Charles Sandlin.

"I think Rick Perry really vindicated himself," said attendee Ward Connerly.

"I think Newt Gingrich is brilliant," said attendee Kelly Kidwell.

Tonight's Republican debate was the first time all eight candidates faced each other on stage. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman and Herman Caine all took the state at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The debate was moderated by Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News and John F. Harris, Editor in Chief of Politico. The next debate will take place on Sept. 12 in Tampa, FL.


Herman Cain*

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