The debate was a bit of a mixed bag with no clear-cut winners or losers.
Here is the breakdown:
Newt Gingrich—Newt had horrible moments and great moments. When Newt goes on and on explaining why he was paid $1.6 million by a federal entity to NOT be a lobbyist, he doesn’t pass the laugh test. And when he prattles on about what a celebrity he is and how he can make $60,000 a speech he makes Mitt Romney look like a full-time homeless advocate. But Newt also had great moments. Let’s face it; there is no one better in the Republican field at expressing contempt for Obama, Liberals and the judiciary than Newt. There is a huge faction of the GOP that feels contempt for all things Democratic and Newt oozes their contempt better than Oprah exudes empathy for housewives. Newt held his own for the evening.
Mitt Romney-Mitt was Mitt, calm, cool and collected. He didn’t make any $10,000 betting blunders but he also didn’t land any strong blows toward Gingrich. Romney’s worst moment was when Fox’s Chris Wallace read chapter and verse on all the liberal positions Romney has expressed, specifically on gay rights. Watching Romney dance away from his past while claiming to not be dancing away from his past is always a fun show, and it’s a reminder why the majority of the conservative party does not trust or like Romney.
Jon Huntsman—Jon opened really strongly. He gave a nice slam against Donald Trump and not turning himself into a pretzel by pandering to interest groups or The Donald. It was a clever jab at both Newt and Romney. Huntsman also gave a great message on banking reform that was both conservative and populist and courageous. He didn’t do or say much of anytime else of interest in the debate. Still, more and more eyes are looking at Huntsman as party leaders hope and pray that Gingrich will collapse and the Party will have to move on to the next non-Mitt.
Ron Paul—Ron was consistent, as always. Yes, Paul had some of the biggest applause lines of the night. And he also had people gasping at his foreign policy views. Paul was audacious and honest when he labeled Gingrich's cashing in on Freddie Mac as “Fascism.” Every liberal Democrat and moderate in the country fell in love with Paul when he labeled Gingrich’s money-making escapades “Fascism.” Unfortunately for Paul, they don’t get to vote in Republican primaries or caucuses.
Rick Perry—Rick has a good night anytime he can remember his name. Perry had some sprightly moments and got in the sound bite of the night claiming he wants to be like “Tim Tebow.” Had Perry debated like this in his first few debates, chances are he’d still be the front-runner. But now, Perry just seems like a “Forrest Gump” character, albeit one who doesn’t like gays. Michele Bachmann—Michelle had a good night and fired off some great shots against Newt. Her problem is that both the high brow and the low brow wings of the Republican Party have written her off. She’s never recovered from earlier demagogic stumbles and it just doesn’t matter what she does in debates any longer.
Rick Santorum—Rick still looks and sounds like a 2-term congressman. On paper, Santorum could and should be a frontrunner (at least for 3 weeks) but he has all the charisma of a three-week old tuna fish sandwich.
Did anyone else catch this? During the GOP debate last night, after Tim Russert asked Mitt Romney whether he'd "do for Social Security what Ronald Reagan did in 1983," you could distinctly make out a male voice whispering "raise taxes" and sure enough, as if on cue, Romney responded "I'm not gonna raise taxes." I thought I'd imagined it until I saw this video over at The Right's Field. Check it out.
WTF? Anyone catch a glimpse of Romney's back to see whether there was a box-shaped device jutting out from underneath his jacket? Or was there someone underneath his podium feeding him answers, maybe even controlling his every word and motion? Cuz you know, Romney is a muppet after all.
This was Fred Thompson's second strong debate in a row; it's as if he realized there was a real campaign and that he had real talent to bring to bear in a way that makes him look good and his opponents look silly.
In last night's GOP debate from South Carolina, Thompson was funny, biting, and energetic. It was easily his smoothest performance, but it wasn't necessarily presidential -- it was Jack Cafferty-esque or Paul Harvey-like. In short, he sounded like a smart (and cranky) pundit.
So you gotta wonder, what is it that's put a spring back in Grandpa Fred's step? Is it that South Carolina is make or break or that in the GOP primary, as South Carolina goes, so goes the nation? Or is there something else at work? Chuck Todd gives voice to my suspicions:
Is Thompson worried about Thompson or is Thompson trying to help John McCain because he certainly did John McCain a big favor by going after Mike Huckabee.
There was a lot of talk about Fred dropping out after Iowa and endorsing John McCain but perhaps he's calculated that he can actually be of more help to his buddy McCain by remaining in the race. Or maybe Fred just woke up.
Anyone care to document the atrocities? The GOP debate is airing live on FoxNews and streaming live HERE now. I'm heading out so, sadly, won't be able to follow along, but let us know what they're saying in the comments. And if you'd rather follow along with Marc Ambinder, that way you won't have to take another shower today. (Bumped -- Jonathan)
After the debacle of missing the Republican debate hosted by Tavis Smiley at the HBC, Morgan State University by the four front-running Republican candidates it would be easy to dismiss their failure to participate as racism. Many pundits and bloggers have made that connection, with many saying that unlike their good friend Bill O'Reilly these candidates still believe that the "negroes will not be well-behaved" and there is a difference. I think to take this tack is to misunderstand the state of racial affairs in America. With the stakes as high as they are and with the spotlight beaming on race relations thanks to our friends in Jena, La, would any candidate be stupid enough to be so blatantly racist? Maybe, but I doubt it, so what is the answer to them being willing to ignore the black voters of America and not worry about backlash?