We Know What You Really Want to See Moment: Moderators Brian Williams and John Harris open the debate by encouraging frontrunners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney to spar over their gubernatorial records. Both main candidates land blows, and everyone else on the stage seems as tiny as their dismal poll numbers.
Surprise of the Night: Perry stumbles over his words right out of the gate and seems unusually nervous. Where’s the Texas swagger that he is famous for — and that is his greatest campaign-trail asset?
Saying Things Such As This Is Among the Reasons You Will Never be President Moment: Ron Paul accuses the Transportation Security Administration of “mauling” people at airports. TSA agents, do us all a favor and avoid a national hassle: Don’t touch his junk.
Key Exchange of the Night: Perry doubles down on his claims that Social Security is a “monstrous lie” and a “Ponzi scheme.” Romney retorts, “Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.” Perry evades, “We’re not trying to pick fights here.” Ouch.
Republicans Do Their Best to Confirm Stereotypes the Rest of the Country Has of Them Moment: The audience cheers and hoots when Williams mentions the 234 people executed in Texas since Perry became governor.
Palm-Forehead Moment: Michele Bachmann doubles down on her wacky guarantee that she can bring the price of gas down below $2 a gallon. Maybe try to make your campaign gimmicks not so obviously ridiculous next time.
Is He Really Doing This Moment: Perry cites Galileo to argue that we shouldn’t trust climate scientists.
Why Isn’t He Running the House of Representatives Moment: All the candidates call for Obama’s health-care law to be repealed. Jon Huntsman actually speaks about what he would replace it with, putting him far ahead of the GOP’s national leadership.
Candidate Repeats a Widely-Discredited Partisan Myth Moment: Bachmann insists that the Congressional Budget Office has certified that Obamacare will kill jobs.
Actually, He’s Being Totally Reasonable Moment: Perry stands by his decision to require Texas girls to get the HPV vaccine, which will arrest the spread of cervical cancer, though he says it might have been better to consult the Texas legislature first.
Winner of the Debate: Romney, hands down. He got a lot of face time, made no big mistakes and was more self-assured behind the lectern even than the uber-confident Perry. Plus, that Social Security exchange underlines why the GOP establishment will rally hard against Perry.
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