The best way to describe Saturday night’s debate is a disappointment. There was no moment with any potential to change the poll standings. Amazingly, the moderators never asked Gingrich about calling Romney a “liar” or his other harsh statements this week that I reviewed in my most recent PJ Media column.
In fact, the most memorable exchange was between George Stephanopoulos and Mitt Romney, when Stephanopoulos asked an absurd hypothetical question about whether a state has the right to ban contraception. And Stephanopoulos just wouldn’t let it go. It was simply bizarre and a complete waste of time.
Here are my thoughts on each candidate’s performance:
Mitt Romney: The clear winner. His supporters were never given a compelling reason to jump ship and he suffered no significant attacks. Not bad for a guy who Politico said was facing a “weekend from hell.”
Rick Santorum: His best debate yet and it will help him solidify his position as the alternative to Romney. There were several times where he offered detail, facts, and numbers that really made me think to myself, “This is one smart guy.” He looked like a credible presidential candidate and overshadowed Newt Gingrich.
Ron Paul: Out of everyone, he had the most “wow moments,” even when I disagreed with his answers. He was also more likeable than he ever has been and his response to Stephanopoulos’ question showed a real depth of knowledge that is impossible not to admire.
He was the most effective attack dog of the night, going on the offensive against Santorum as a “big spender.” He also won his clash with Gingrich and (again, even if I disagree) had a powerful moment when he talked about his “pet peeve that really annoys him” when those that avoid service send kids off to war.
Newt Gingrich: He gave impressive answers as always, particularly on national security, but there just wasn’t a standout moment for him. It feels as if the audience has grown accustomed to his intelligent, articulate answers. He failed to achieve his two main objectives tonight: bring Romney down and stall Santorum’s momentum.
Rick Perry: He has become a better speaker but he was just plain forgettable. There was no real reason for Santorum or Gingrich supporters to move to his camp. He should’ve quit.
Jon Huntsman: Mitt Romney clobbered Huntsman on China when he pointed out that he’s been in charge of implementing Obama’s China policy for two years. Voters recognize that our relationship with China isn’t working in our favor. And Huntsman just came off like a show-off when he replied by speaking in Chinese. He’ll be gone next week.
Hopefully, Sunday morning will be a better show.