1. Jon Huntsman looked good and he positioned himself as the moderate. Unfortunately, as one of the moderators commented, he might be running in the wrong party. He also looks extremely polished; cosmopolitan, even. He is this election cycle’s John Edwards.
2. Tim Pawlenty is trying to run as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick. His attack on Michele Bachmann is nothing more than him proving to Romney that he could be the Biden to Romney’s Obama. He looked extra desperate tonight when he first went on the offensive against Bachmann. Bachmann might look crazy and her record of results as a congresswoman might be sub-par, but when put up against Pawlenty’s dithering and compromising, she looked principled while Pawlenty looked petty and political in comparison. It has only been over a week since the debt ceiling debacle and Republicans, rightly or wrongly, thought that their leadership capitulated to the Democrats. Pawlenty suggesting more of John Boehner’s leadership style will not endear him to Republicans.
3. Herman Cain’s answers were forgettable. Half the time, he was excusing and qualifying his previous statements. Blah blah blah shariah law blah blah blah Muslims.
4. Newt Gingrich was good as usual, except he looked and sounded he was stuck in the 1990s. It might be news to Gingrich, but Bill Clinton has not been president in over a decade. There is a decade worth of new voters that do not remember or care about the Clinton administration and the political hijinks of that time. At one point he was attacking the moderators! That made for good television, but Chris Wallace is not running for president. Gingrich’s performance in this debate is further proof his irrelevance.
5. Michele Bachmann was on fire tonight and survived Tim Pawlenty’s onslaught. She is not a dim-wit; she is a Sarah Palin with a brain. She was first to answer a question and was first to attack Barack Obama. Her performance might be excellent, but her actual answers were seriously lacking in substance. At one point, she repeated the flat-out lie that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. One thing I found interesting, however, was that she has decided to explicitly (and quite publicly on national television) oppose raising the debt ceiling. By claiming that she led the fight to oppose raising the debt ceiling, she is taking the blame (or credit) for it. This might win her points with the hardcore tea party base, but with that debate proving unpopular with the general public, it might not be so wise.
6. Mitt Romney just articulated a whole cadre of new positions tonight. Corporate media narrative that he is a front-runner was repeated the entire night. Fox News wanted to remind the viewers who the front-runner was tonight. He was uninspiring as usual.
7. Rick Santorum’s strategy tonight was to attack Ron Paul. He also hates the Constitution, it turns out. Santorum made clear that he is a Big Government neoconservative of the Bush variety (and that he hates homosexuals) and that he wants to legislate morality. Ineffective, desperate, and after this debate, his campaign is dead in the water.
8. Ron Paul made me holler and hoot at the television screen. Paul reminded me once against why he galvanized me to hit the dirt and campaign for him back in 2007. His first answer was lacking energy, but his subsequent answers and his clear, consistent, and principled antiwar views made him stand out among his fellow Republicans. Anyone saying otherwise is being intellectually dishonest.
Best moments: The fact that the Republicans rediscovered the Constitution (except Rick Santorum) and are articulating its importance. There is also the fact that the Federal is an actual topic in this debate. It is unthinkable that the Federal Reserve and its destructive monetary policies could even be a topic of discussion in an election debate, if it were not for Ron Paul.
Lowest moments: Rick Santorum constantly interrupting Ron Paul. Michele Bachmann’s migraine possibly acting up. Jon Huntsman looking so shiny and polished. All of Herman Cain.
Final thoughts: The moderators did a great job with their questions and the way they handled the candidates and kept control of the debate. I did not like that they only asked Ron Paul a few questions, but the questions they did asked him gave him the opportunity to differentiate himself from the Republicans.