Firstly, thank God for Ron Paul is running for President. Otherwise these debates might become boring tramps through policy. Paul serves as the GOP’s field’s Abe Simpson, telling us the First Amendment “literally says no theocracy!” (of course it doesn’t literally say that.) But Paul serves as the mildly humorous crotchety old grandfather who sits on the couch at family gatherings and yaps about the world gone awry. He delivered the best laugh-lines of the night, like Abe Simpson does. “Q. How much government aid should businesses get. Paul: NONE!” And before all the Paul brigades mobilize and attack, realize I never said a word about his policy being wrong, only that he serves as comic relief.
The two big winners of the night were Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney. Bachmann was optimistic, clear and perfectly willing to land sharp blows, such as holding Obama to his own standards (Alinsky Rule #4). Contrast that with Pawlenty’s hasty retreat from “Obamneycare.” It was a shame to see Andrew Card say after the debate that Bachmann served as a great “cheerleader” on CNN. Calling the first GOP woman to run for President a cheerleader does a disservice to her. Bachmann showed she belongs in the top tier of candidates while others last night clearly did not.
Romney’s language made him another winner. He did more than say he supports the free market system and that government was too big. He explained how markets and businesses work in ways everyone can understand. He didn’t just spout off about government being too big, he explained why it matters. He rose above the crowd and had a more accessible presence than he did in 2008.
The reality of modern politics is that it takes a large personality and presence to win the Presidency. Merely being right won’t do it. Last night, Romney and Bachmann showed they had the personality and presence to beat Obama, while the others mostly did not.