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The Republican Debate In New Hampshire


So, here we go. [wow, it seems like only yesterday I was doing these write-ups in the months preceding the 2008 election...]

Okay, first of all, no matter which horse you picked in this race, the clear loser of the evening was CNN.

Whomever had the idea to show off every bell and whistle in the Social Media Universe should get smacked. And then fired.

CNN's John King was so concerned about getting to "the voters" for questions, that he barely let each candidate finish their pre-packaged talking-points (which I'll get to later). With a few exceptions, I feel like I didn't get to hear any real answers from any of the candidates on the stage.

Speaking of candidates, let's get to it...

Bachmann, Michele: Yes. One 'L'. Get it right folks.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Bachmann. I don't get her style and everything that she says seems contrived. Last night was no different.

The narrative today is that "she can play with the boys". Well, duh. Of course she can. She wouldn't be where she is if she couldn't. But for me, her answers always veered away from the topic-at-hand and drifted to her 823 adopted children.

We get it Michele, you're a good mom and a kind person.

Her answer on "life" is a prime example. When asked about exceptions for abortion in cases of rape and incest, Bachmann said:
I am 100 percent pro-life. I’ve given birth to five babies, and I’ve taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life.

And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it’s a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.

And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general — genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death.
Sooooo, where is she on this one? She didn't answer the question, she dodged it.

...and she slipped in that bit about her adopted children.

Cain, Herman: What can I say about Herman Cain that hasn't already been said? Shoot, we'll let Mr. Cain's words speak for themselves:


Wow.

Gingrich, Newt: Newt was, well, on the stage. In this writer's opinion, his response to immigration was a little bit grating. I think Doug sums-up Gingrich's appearance best:
The one headline-grabbing moment for him was when he seemed to say, once again, that the Ryan Plan was a step to far because it didn’t have sufficient public support. However, he accompanied that response with enough verbal legerdemain that I doubt anyone really understood what he was saying. He also went down a road that eventually led him to compare Islam to Naziism and Communism and essentially back Herman Cain’s support for loyalty oaths, which isn’t surprising considering what Gingrich said about the “Ground Zero Mosque” last year. For the most part, though, Gingrich seemed last night liked he should’ve been doing post-debate analysis on Fox instead of standing up on the debate stage.
Indeed.

Paul, Ron: The Congressman from Texas was on his usual game. I was shocked that mid-way through the debate, I got a text message from B-Diddy that read:
RON PAUL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!
I'm sure that if his iPhone would let him, he would have used BOLD typeface to accompany the caps-lock.

Ron Paul said nearly the same things that he has been saying since attending the Republican Presidential primary debates in 2008.

Simply put: Ron Paul is consistent.

Pawlenty, Tim: No failed jokes (that I saw, anyway).

However, I (and others) found it very interesting that -- when given the opportunity to do so -- Pawlenty did not go after Mitt Romney.

When given the chance to continue his 'Obamneycare' line-of-attack (lumping Mitt Romney in with President Obama on health care), Pawlenty balked -- big time:



This was a HUGE missed opportunity for Pawlenty to really stand-out in the crowd of GOP contenders.

Over at HotAir, Jazz Shaw says:
The worst offender, and possibly the biggest loser of the night, was Tim Pawlenty. In one of the few areas where I would give some credit to the moderator, King started off the evening throwing some confrontational, challenging questions at T-paw and looked like he was trying to set up a scuffle between him and Mitt. The big opening came when he referenced Pawlenty’s comments from the previous day about “Obamneycare.” It was a clever shot across the bow at both Romney and the president which had gotten the media wondering of the Minnesota governor had stoked up some fire in the belly and was ready to put some high voltage in his campaign.

When King tossed that ultimate softball at T-paw I was reaching over to grab my wife’s arm saying, “Watch this.. here we go!” But rather than hitting it out of the park, Pawlenty took a complete pass on it, falling back on criticism of the president’s health care plan. The moderator even gave him a second chance – rare in this stunted format – challenging him as to why he wouldn’t talk about “Obamneycare” now that he was standing next to Mitt. King offered Pawlenty his own Teddy Roosevelt moment, positioning him at the base of San Juan Hill with troops at the ready. But rather than leading the charge, T-Paw chose to load everybody into a beige minivan and drive around the hill instead.
...and speaking of the former Governor of Massachusetts...

Romney, Mitt: Romey was good. He's definitely more comfortable in his own skin than he was in the 2008 cycle. Perhaps he is getting better advising and debate prep -- I don't know. Whatever it is, it's working for him.

My favorite Romney-moment was in response to Herman Cain's "litmus test for Muslims" moment.

After Cain had spewed his response that included some nonsense about Sharia Law in America, Mitt calmly said:
Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law.

No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion.

Obviously, anybody who would come into my administration would be someone who I knew, who I was comfortable with, and who I believed would honor as their highest oath — their oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.
My disappointment with Romney came when he endorsed the idea of a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

Santorum, Rick: It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of Rick Santorum. But, that said, I think that he performed quite well last night.

I think his most reasoned answer was the most surprising. During a discussion about faith, and the role that it would play in each candidate's decision-making, Santorum quipped:
I think the key to the success of this country, how we all live together, because we are a very diverse country — Madison called it the perfect remedy — which was to allow everybody, people of faith and no faith, to come in and make their claims in the public square, to be heard, have those arguments, and not to say because you’re not a person of faith, you need to stay out, because you have strong faith convictions, your opinion is invalid. Just the opposite — we get along because we know that we — all of our ideas are allowed in and tolerated. That’s what makes America work.
I leaned over to TPW and said, "Wow, that was a great answer. I'm surprised that it came from Santorum."

Coming from me, that's a pretty big compliment to the former Senator from my home state of Pennsylvania.

SO, all-in-all I do not see a clear winner.

There were definitely some losers: CNN/John King, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain definitely need some work.

As I mentioned, it seems that Michele Bachmann's stock has risen due to her performance last night -- but I just don't see it. She, as well as Ron Paul and Rick Santorum remain unchanged in my view of the candidates.

Mitt Romney is the I'm-Next-In-Line-Candidate -- and by some accounts, that makes him the winner. As I said, he looked good, but I can't say that he was my choice for winner of the evening. I have to agree with Ed Morrissey's Winner Statement:
The biggest winner for me was None of the Above. There is plenty of room for a charismatic, accomplished candidate to jump into this race and outshine the field as it stands at the moment. For some that will be Sarah Palin, but I’d say that the 2-hour performance was a gilt-edged invitation to Rick Perry to join the field and command the stage.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, Gawker.com's compilation of the cheesy 'This or That' questions from the debate.

[Two quick thoughts on that video: 1) Romney's Bruins/Canucks score update was fantastic and 2) Herman Cain is wrong on pizza.]

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Photo: David S. Holloway/CNN