I hit the sack shortly after yesterday’s debate and made it a point to not look at any analysis as to what anyone said other than the quick few moments at the end of the debate the ABC did in the spin room. I’m writing this in the morning because it is what you take from it the next day that is the real test of how a debate went.
Let’s go right down the line:
Rick Santorum: Santorum had some strong moments in the debate, he effectively portrayed himself as the “consistent” conservative” which is important, and I loved the unwillingness to quantify a jobs was excellent. His exchange with Bachmann was also important since they are pretty the closest.
He had two weak moments. One when asked on the Gingrich/Romney exchange concerning Israel he split the difference pointing in an homage to truth and tact the contrast with Reagan’s situation was credible but even though it was a fair point it was a bad visual.
Secondly was the question concerning faithfulness. This was a bit of a trap and I think he fell into it, Perry had to go there he didn’t but there really wasn’t a good answer.
Santorum showed he belonged on the stage but didn’t make a significant move to a national audience. B.
Rick Perry: I think Perry had a decent debate. Part of that is due to the low expectation of his previous performances, but there was very little pressure on his comparatively speaking. He did a fair job highlighting Texas and the “Romney Bet” moment assured him that he would get some post-debate conversation. I think the entire, “if you will betray your wife you will betray your business partner bit, made his point (although frankly you are dealing with two different appetites) If he was looking for a break out moment to get back in the top-tier, this wasn’t it. C+
Newt Gingrich: Debates are always the strongest place for Newt and even through he had a target on his back he thrived. He parried every attack, he stood strong on the Palestinian issue in a way that many pro-Israel people like myself could only dream of, and he read my mind when a few seconds after I tweeted: He should follow up with the “Evil Empire” line from Reagan and he did, his answer concerning the infidelity question was exactly right.
All the take away from this debate for him are positive, he couldn’t have had a better debate if he tried. A
Mitt Romney: He had memorable exchanges with both Rick Perry and Newt and his answer to the “How poor are you” question was really good. I was surprised how much people seemed to make of the $10,000 bet business. I thought it was a throw away line myself and a pretty good counter but people see to be taking it wrong. His hit on Gingrich vis-a-vis the Palestinians was fair but it was reactive. He also seemed odd to watch him make a 10th amendment case.
You need to be remembered after debates but Mitt needed to slow down Newt and he just couldn’t do it. B-
Ron Paul: This was one of Ron Paul’s best debates. He was crisp, he was strong and he looked every bit the statesman. He played off his record and when he countered on Israel he came across better than he actually is. I’ve written recently that Paul is a serious candidate this time, and the most important thing he needs to do is to appear as a serious and credible alternative. He did that and was the clear runner up in this debate A-
Michelle Bachmann: Her best debate since St. Anselm. She was crisp and strong, her “Newt-Ronney” line was memorable and I think she actually managed the most subtle hit on Newt that nobody noticed. When she talked about how divorce had really been painful as a child. She may not have been swinging at Gingrich’s infidelity there but it was the most profound illustration of the cost. Her bringing up Herman Cain and 9-9-9 multiple times was a bit obvious and overdone, you do it once to make the point, twice was more “please please come to me”. B+
ABC: I was actually surprised at how well they did. Again I had how expectations and ABC beat the game, Dianne Sawyer’s attempt to manage the debate seemed weak but by letting people at each other they provided both good television and informative debate. I didn’t like cutting 10 min from the debate at the end for the spin room but it was pretty good B+
Bottom line, Newt clearly won this debate on substance and style. Of the others at the debate Paul and Bachmann did the most to achieve their objectives. Santorum was steady, Mitt and Perry kept themselves in the conversation but not in ways that will achieve their objectives.
I think if the other campaigns are hoping to knock Gingrich off the top, debates aren’t going to do it. It’s going to take a Politico/Cain type operation or a gaffe of major proportions to do it.
Winners: Bachmann, Santorum, Perry — and because they can take steam out of Gingrich and he demonstrated a superior temperament, Romney too was a winner
Losers: Gingrich (who did himself no good and some harm) and Diane Sawyer (who sounded as if she were addressing a kindergarten class).
I have no idea what she was drinking last night but if I serve it at my party on the 31st I’m positive it will be a smashing success.
Stacy McCain says it well:
Jennifer Rubin, WTF?
and links some tweets of “outrage” but he does link to a story that supports my contention that next to Gingrich Paul had the best debate.
Update 2: How bad was Jennifer Rubin’s analysis? An person actually drunkblogging the debate sounds more reasonable than her:
Yep, I’m drunk.
But I will tack on one last thought.
Romney had the most to lose tonight, and he certainly did.
It brought to mind a scene from Star Trek 4
Kirk: Mr. Spock, have you accounted for the variable mass of whales and water in your time re-entry program?
Spock: Mr. Scott cannot give me exact figures, Admiral, so… I will make a guess.
Kirk: A guess? You, Spock? That’s extraordinary.
Spock: [to Dr. McCoy] I don’t think he understands.
McCoy: No, Spock. He means that he feels safer about your guesses than most other people’s facts.
I think I’ll take Stephen Green drunk over Jennifer Rubin sober.
Update 3: Reading this from the Union leader you would never know it was written before John Sununu’s appearance on CNN this morning:
Again, desperate men do desperate things. Romney’s excuse that he doesn’t “write the scripts” in which Sununu and his other surrogates are now viciously and personally smearing Gingrich is laughable.
Update 4: Joy McCann disagrees with my take on ABC
I honestly don’t see any point in trying to sugar-coat this: why are we letting the enemy moderate our debates? If the big networks aren’t willing to hire any non-liberal-Democrats full-time, they should at least have access to some who are willing to moderate GOP debates on a contract basis.
Most of the questions Stephanopoulos and Sawyer came up with tonight were clearly designed to do one of two things:
1) Throw out more heat than light, and set the candidates to squabbling over non-issues, while making sure there is as much bad blood on the stage as possible; and
2) Put each potential candidate in a position such that he/she had to either throw out red meat to the base (which can be used in attack ads next year in the general election, to turn independents against whoever the candidate is), or stand there holding their dicks/boobies looking stupid.
We certainly didn’t see a question about Eric Holder, Fast and Furious or the Climate Gate e-mails
Update 5: Joy spots a misplaced blockquote, corrected.