Tonight’s debate sure was an entertaining one: Herman Cain was finally put in the spotlight as a new top-tier candidate, and he touted his 9-9-9 plan repeatedly. Rick Perry’s ship continued to sink, and Mitt Romney was also caught in the crossfire. Here is a quick reaction to each of the candidates.
Mitt Romney: Romney did what he needed to do tonight. Especially with the final pronouncement of Chris Christie’s intentions not to run next year, Romney kept his cool and did what he needed to in order to secure the moderate wing of the GOP. No glaring mistakes, but no knockout punches either. As the primaries draw closer, he will have to go on the offensive more, but he has been playing solid defense by avoiding costly mistakes.
Rick Perry: Perry’s ineptitude at debating has, once again, failed to revive his collapsing campaign. If the Texan hopes to turn around his faltering campaign, he will have to do better than he did tonight in future debates. Mediocre answers and tactics in debates are generally not elements that lead to a successful campaign for the nomination.
Herman Cain: Cain’s sudden ascension to the top tier of the race has, admittedly, surprised me greatly. That said, he would easily have been declared the winner of tonight’s debate, save for one glaring mistake; picking Alan Greenspan as the greatest of the Fed Chairmen. As Ron Paul pointed out, Greenspan created bubbles that, of course, collapsed and resulted in the problems we have faced the last two years. Other than that, he effectively touted his 9-9-9 Plan, which is political genius. Simple, and effective, it resonates with voters. However, picking Alan Greenspan was a mistake, plain and simple.
Ron Paul: Ron Paul, of course, was Ron Paul. I am not a major Ron Paul fan (again, his foreign policy scares me), but even I was somewhat offended by the lack of questions directed at him. However, he did use his allotted time effectively- especially his scathing rebuttal of Herman Cain’s choice of Alan Greenspan. He did what he could with the time that was given to him, but I doubt that it was enough to really gain any new followers.
Newt Gingrich: Honestly, if Newt did not have all of the skeletons in his closet, he would probably be the front runner right now. He is an excellent debater with real ideas- even if he is misguided on issues like climate change. Tonight, as in every other debate I have seen, Newt effectively used his limited amount of time and produced some great one-liners. Unfortunately for him, however, his personal skeletons are essentially insurmountable, and his campaign seems more like an attempt to keep his name relevant than a serious run at the presidency.
Michele Bachmann: Her most memorable moment of the night was saying that Herman Cain’s flat tax plan of 9-9-9 should be turned upside down. This was not a good night for her, far removed from the debate in Iowa that catapulted her to the front. Her fading campaign really needs a boost, and this debate really did not provide that boost.
Rick Santorum: In my opinion, Santorum was easily the best debater of the night- when given the opportunity. He was direct, clear, and on the attack. Additionally, he hit a bull’s-eye by pointing out the role of family in poverty; a point that had been completely ignored during the debate until that point (which then prompted Michele Bachmann to use her kindergarten teacher voice to talk about her family and belief in family). You have to give Santorum credit- he has been very good at staying relevant.
Jon Huntsman: Without question, Huntsman had the best zingers of the night. The comment of D.C. being the “gas capital of the United States”, especially, was pure brilliance. Like Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul, he really did not have too many opportunities to speak, but made the most of those opportunities. He was calm, cool, and collected- definitely continuing to improve his debating skills.
Conclusion: Of the front runners, Romney was probably the winner (much as it pains me to admit this). Cain was entertaining, but made a critical mistake with his praise of Alan Greenspan. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman all had great performances tonight, especially given the time constraints placed upon them (and honestly, there really is not too much time that can spent on marginal candidates in an 8-person debate). Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry were definitely the losers tonight.