January 17, 2012

That was a pretty entertaining debate last night in Myrtle Beach. Now that the GOP field has been winnowed down to five, it gave more time to the candidates to answer questions and to – gulp! – actually debate each other without one losing track of the scorecard. I enjoyed this debate immensely, and I look forward to Thursday night’s CNN debate hoping that there will be more questions about the federal deficit and reigning in this country’s reckless spending. Here are my winners and losers from top to bottom:

1. Newt Gingrich – Newt was en fuego tonight, as he reverted back to the entertaining, substantive, and combative Newt of earlier debates. He wiped the floor with Juan Williams when the latter attempted to bait him into race and class warfare with his Obama “food stamps President” comment and his suggestion about teens learning good work habits by doing light janitorial work at schools. Newt turned Juan’s question around masterfully, accusing liberal elites like him of hating capitalism in its most basic form. For that, he got a standing ovation from the audience. He was good pretty much throughout, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the gap between him and Mitt Romney close significantly over the next few days.

2. Rick Perry – his best debate yet by far, but it’s too little too late for him and his campaign. If the Perry that showed up last night had been there from the start he’d already have the nomination locked down. His answers were direct, to the point, easy to understand, and spot-on conservative red meat. For Perry, it’s a case of what might have been. Too bad.

3. Rick Santorum – had a decent-enough performance, but he was dwarfed by both Gingrich’s and Perry’s performances. He obviously knows his stuff, but he spends too much time qualifying or defending why he believes in or stands for something instead of just letting it rip. Because he’s going after the same voters as Gingrich and Perry, I don’t think his performance will give him any boost in the polls.

4. Mitt Romney – to me it seemed like he was a little off center all night. He did a poor job answering the initial questions on Bain Capital, had a poor answer on the Super PAC question, completely blew the question on releasing his tax returns, and was all over the place just about everywhere else. Tonight was the first time I saw him a little unprepared: not a good feeling for conservatives who dread the idea of Romney getting the nomination. He had a real chance to nail down the nomination with a boffo performance last night; instead, this was his worst debate yet and he’s opened the door for a Gingrich revival.

5. Ron Paul – tonight Paul reverted back to the “crazy uncle” act that we’ve seen in just about every other debate. Newt was right to slam him for comparing peaceful, democracy-loving Chinese dissidents here in the US with Osama bin Laden, and Paul seemed to get tied up in knots defending that. When he dragged out Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” line, it was turn out the lights, Gracie. The guy is batsh*t nuts.

The big unseen winner tonight was the audience who tuned in to see a debate without Jon Huntsman in it: having him drop out of the race earlier today was the campaign equivalent of when the most drunk and obnoxious person at the party finally leaves: everyone lets out a deep breath and begins to relax and have some fun.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (0)
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