Watching Tuesday’s GOP debate in Las Vegas this is what Republican voters are looking for and have yet to find: a leader who presents a vision to us – the American people – of how he or she will reverse a widespread sense of national decline and then lead an American revival.
Instead, all we see are quibbling, un-imaginitive candidates who focus on small things instead of the biggest issue of all: how to inspire a dispirited American people and infuse them with a belief that America’s best days are not in the past.
On technical grades, Herman Cain withstood withering attacks on his 9-9-9 plan, but what might hurt him has now been established: an average taxpayer will pay more under his 9-9-9 plan than he or she currently pays.
If that argument proves to be accepted as true, then Herman Cain’s popularity will begin to wane. He is so intertwined with his plan that when that plan becomes less popular, so will he. (This happened in 1996 with Steve Forbes and his momentarily-popular Flat Tax; as soon as the people looked at it and compared it to their current taxes, the Flat Tax – and Steve Forbes – dropped like a rock.)
However, Cain is an enormously refreshing candidate who you cannot help but like. He is the candidate favored by most Tea Party voters who like an out-of-the-box, non-politician.
Mitt Romney seemed a bit more petulant than his carefully-controlled performances in the three recent debates. He clearly dislikes Rick Perry, even though Perry has flat-lined as a candidate and should basically be ignored. But Romney couldn’t hold back and really tore into the lost-looking, in-over-his-head Texas Governor. This exchange made Romney look like less of a man – and certainly less presidential.
Ron Paul continued to say things that previous GOP presidential candidates would never have had the courage to say – especially about aid to Israel, closing foreign military bases, not building a fence on our southern border and the Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Newt Gingrich always does well in these debates because he breaks the format and critiques the questions. Ad at the end of Tuesday night's debate he criticized all the other candidates for “quibbling.” He was – and is – right. You get to the White House by going big and high – not low and petty.
Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were almost invisible in this debate. They no longer have any impact on the contest -- they have become vanity candidates who stay in the race through Iowa – and then disappear.
Bottom line: not the best debate for the Republican Party overall. We did not present a Reaganesque, positive, hopeful, visionary face to the American people.
Former U.S. Rep. John LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.) is the co-host of "Campaign Confidential" which can be seen Mondays at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com.