Presidential Election Update 2012: January 24, 2012

Last night’s debate in Tampa, Florida marked the 18th Republican Presidential debate of the 2012 election. What made it different than the previous ones, however, was the lack of audience participation. NBC host Brian Williams told members of the audience to hold their applause in an attempt to focus attention on the candidates’ arguments, not their popularity with the audience.

After refusing to release his tax returns until he secured the GOP presidential nomination, Mitt Romney made headlines early this morning by releasing details of his 2010 and 2011 federal tax returns. Romney’s campaign revealed that he earned $21.6 million in 2010 and paid income taxes at a rate of 13.9%.

Tonight, President Barack Obama delivers his fourth State of the Union Address. Members of Congress have opted once again to participate in a bipartisan seating arrangement in a symbolic gesture of unity and civility. The 9 p.m. speech (8 p.m. central, 6 p.m. pacific) can be viewed on most of the major television networks and online at the White House Official Website.

On the campaign trail January 24, 2012 …

Newt Gingrich (Republican): This morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich threatened not to participate in any future Republican debates if audience participation continued to be prohibited. In his opinion, “NBC’s rules amounted to stifling free speech…The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.” Despite the lack of audience participation, Gingrich and Romney remained at center stage, according to TIME correspondent James Poniewozik.

Barack Obama (Democrat): Today President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union Address at 9 p.m. ET. He is expected to highlight inequalities in the U.S. tax system, inviting Warren Buffet’s secretary to attend, who reportedly pays a higher tax rate than her billionaire boss. In a September speech, Obama said, “Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There’s no justification for it.” Here are more predictions on President Obama’s projected message. Also, check in for a recap of his speech tomorrow on The Independent Voter Network (IVN).

Ron Paul (Republican): After his son Sen. Rand Paul’s refusal to commit to a full body pat down by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) yesterday, Ron Paul has launched a money-bomb in his campaign to “end the TSA.” For full text of Paul’s release and more information on his money-bomb, see Huffington Post’s article. In last night’s debate, Texas Congressman Paul focused on the Federal Reserve, stating that he wants to see a firm value placed on the American dollar, an argument agreed to by Gingrich. Paul also hinted he would support Gingrich, if the former House Speaker would change his foreign policy to align with Paul’s.

Buddy Roemer (Republican): Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer has stuck by his decision to refrain from campaigning in Florida. Although he was excluded from the GOP debate last night, he commented on the debate on his Twitter account and continues to actively promote his candidacy.

Mitt Romney (Republican): While the absence of applause made it hard to define a clear winner, Huffington Post’s Sam Stein states it was Romney who gained ground on Monday night by making aggressive stabs at Newt Gingrich’s association with Freddie Mac. Romney stated at one point of the debate, “I don’t think we can possibly retake the White House if our nominee was a lobbyist for Freddie Mac.” In defense of his tax returns, he argued in Monday’s debate, “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.”

Rick Santorum (Republican): In last night’s debate, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum seemed to take the back seat, blaming the media for pre-maturely portraying the Republican candidacy as a “two man race.” Despite receiving less airtime than Romney and Gingrich, he delivered what NPR’s Debra Rosenberg believed to be the best closing argument, saying, “There is no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen.”