CNN's political analyst David Gergen remarked Monday that many Americans were "horrified" at what they heard from the Republican presidential debate, co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express and CNN. "I was getting notes about they ought to keep this people locked up and not let them out. Don't let them do anything to the country," Gergen remarked.
Gergen's comments came in the post-debate analysis and during the 10 p.m. EDT hour of Anderson Cooper 360. He mentioned that Tea Partiers "loved the debate" and pitted them in contrast with the many on Twitter who expressed their disgust with the debate.
[Video below the break.]
He referred in particular to a hypothetical scenario given to candidate Ron Paul by debate moderator Wolf Blitzer, which asked whether the state should be responsible for someone who chose not to buy health insurance and was subsequently in a coma. Paul maintained that in such a case the man was responsible for himself and could be helped by neighbors and charities, not the state, and many in the audience audibly agreed.
A few voices shouted "Let him die!" and scattered laughter ensued, but there was no widespread audience reaction to those comments.
Gergen used the Tea Party's glee and the disgust of other Americans to buttress his argument that the nation is becoming increasingly polarized. "So, this race is increasingly, I think, bringing to light and once again how divided and how splintered we are and how hard it's going to be for anybody to govern when this is over," he stated.
A transcript of the segments, which aired on September 12, are as follows:
TEA PARTY REPUBLICAN DEBATE
9:58 p.m. EDT
ANDERSON COOPER: John, thanks very much. David Gergen, clearly to Gingrich, Santorum, Herman Cain – got some of the probably louder applause lines of the night. That does not necessarily translate, though, into any kind of bump in the polls. And clearly, a lot of folks were gunning - were looking to try to take on Perry. Did they succeed? Did they succeed maybe, in lessening his poll numbers a little bit? Certainly we saw that from Mitt Romney. We saw that from Santorum. We saw that from Michele Bachmann.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN senior political analyst: I don't think so, Anderson. I will tell you that this hall is crackling with excitement. These Tea Partiers loved this debate. They liked the fact that the other candidates had a chance to get in more evenly. But just as they loved it, there were many, judging from what's been on Twitter tonight, who were horrified. So the country is still very divided about this.
In terms of the dynamics of this race within the Republicans, it's no question that Romney and Perry remain the front-runners. Romney has a better command of the facts. He's a more practiced debater, gave one of the best answers of his entire campaign when he was asked how he would balance the budget.
But Perry has the command presence. And even though people took shots at him, as you said, he deflected reasonably well. He came and he was a better debater. And he was more even this time.
He still talks a lot of Texas. He's going to need to move beyond Texas to get a national focus. And he clearly is going to have to beef himself up on the international side. But I would have to tell you, I think Rick Perry walked in here as the front-runner tonight and I imagine he walked out as the front-runner.
ANDERSON COOPER 360
10:23 p.m. EDT
COOPER: David, what do you make of what Representative Wasserman Schultz just said?
GERGEN: Oh, I think that she made a point that resonated back home with a lot of people on the question of the 30-year-old who was dying being allowed to die, and the kind of response in the hall. You'll recall in that last debate Governor Perry made this point about executions in Texas and there was this big applause and it got a lot of commentary. My sense is that exchange also will get some comment out there, Anderson, because what I find so interesting is that people in this hall really did groove on much of what they heard.
This is what they wanted to hear from these candidates. There are a lot of people around the country who are just like the folks in this room. And yet there are a huge number of people, an equal number of people, who I think were horrified by what they heard in this room. I was getting notes about they ought to keep this people locked up and not let them out. Don't let them do anything to the country.
So, this race is increasingly, I think, bringing to light and once again how divided and how splintered we are and how hard it's going to be for anybody to govern when this is over.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center