Tonight’s debate was very similar to the debates we’ve seen so far. People attack Romney, but the attacks slip off. We did see Mitt lose his cool after being interrupted by Santorum and Perry. But for the most part, there was little new. Here’s my reaction.
Romney: Solid, although showed some temper. I can’t say I blame the guy. And he was playing in front of a “home” audience who cheered him and booed his detractors. Still, lots of fun things to say, but no substance. His job was to not make any mistakes, and he clearly accomplished that goal.
Perry: Remove the awkward illegal immigrant attack, and you have a much better performance from Perry. He had less of the stammering (although some clearly awkward pauses). When talking about jobs and immigration, he was commanding. He probably saved his campaign tonight.
Cain: Apples and oranges. A clearly incompetent attack from Bachmann, who launched into a VAT argument that wasn’t a VAT argument (D’OH!) when she really meant to say national sales tax (ain’t you a tax lawyer, lady?). That made her attack confusing and ultimately it fell flat, and it helped Cain. Ultimately Cain had to throw up his hands and say “read the plan”. Romney’s question on the two sales taxes, state and federal, was not well-addressed by Cain. But Herman certainly had a few winning comments in the debate.
Bachmann: She clearly fumbled the VAT/Sales Tax attack on Cain. Plus she’s gone from saying nobody should be taxed to everybody should be taxes. Since the Gardisil overreach Bachmann has flown off the rails. Tonight’s performance should force her to drop from the campaign.
Santorum: Clearly a stalking horse. The good news is he got more airtime because Huntsmann wasn’t there (hey, a guy has to spray tan!). The bad news is he got more airtime to launch attacks on basically everyone. I’d suggest to the Perry or Romney campaign to reach out to Santorum, promise him a cabinet position and assume his campaign debt, and keep him in, then have him launch proxy attacks on Romney/Perry, or a fake proxy on said candidate so the candidate can come out looking good. If he doesn’t want to do that, then he needs to drop out. Nobody’s taking him seriously.
Paul: Good on domestic, bad on foreign policy. Same old Ron Paul!
Gingrich: I want to say this– the stage tonight was full of people with solid conservative credentials, but only one shines above the field, and that’s Newt. If he didn’t have so much baggage, he’d be the frontrunner. But again he talks about “working together” with Democrats, and he alluded to it tonight. There will be no working together with Democrats to dismantle Obamacare. That’s certain. When the Democrats controlled the House & Senate & White House in 2008-2010, the Republicans got all stick and no carrot. Speaker Boehner has done a great job using that stick on the White House and Senate to get things as done as he can get done. But Newt has to come out guns blazing and declare total animosity towards compromise with the Democrats on Obamacare. And the EPA.
Newt’s brilliant. There’s no doubt about it. He’s a professor and it shows. Romney’s smart, but he’s not Newt. Santorum is smart, and so are Bachmann and Perry. Paul’s a different kind of smart.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Newt’s really making me think about taking him seriously. He’s got tremendous downside potential, but he’s got tremendous upside as well. Perry’s got money, but no mojo to stop Romney.
In fact, if Perry and Gingrich got together right now and formed a ticket, Romney would be dead in the water and Cain couldn’t compete.
Tomorrow: An interview profile of Rick Perry.