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CNN Republican debate: Winners and losers

at 10:32 PM ET, 11/22/2011

Another day, another Republican presidential debate. We live-blogged the whole thing but also took note of a few of the night’s winners and, yes, losers.

Our thoughts are below. Have your own winners and losers? The comments section awaits.

WINNERS

* Newt Gingrich: The former House Speaker didn’t do anything different in this debate than he had in any of the hundreds — we are exaggerating, but only slightly — that preceded it. The difference? His rise to the top of the polls afforded him lots more time to speak. And that’s good for Gingrich, who is a skilled debater. If you went into the debate undecided on Gingrich, you likely came out leaning toward him. One potential trouble spot: Gingrich’s refusal to back away from his belief that we shouldn’t throw out all 11 million people here illegally could come back to bite him in a party that is vehemently opposed to anything that looks or sounds like amnesty.

* Jon Huntsman: Given the national security/foreign policy focus of this debate, it was one where the former Utah governor had to do well. And, by and large, he did. Huntsman is still learning the game of presidential politics — he veers off message occasionally — but he gave off an overall image of competency and reasonableness. Combine tonight’s performance with the $1.5 million the pro-Huntsman super PAC is currently spending in New Hampshire and now must be the time the governor makes his move in the state. If his numbers don’t start ticking up soon, it’s time to start looking at 2016.

* Mitt Romney: It was far from Romney’s most commanding performance, but the former Massachusetts governor — yet again — avoided any sort of gang tackle from his rivals. Romney seemed content to not force the issue but when he got his questions he was solid (as usual) in answering them. Romney also made a point to ding Gingrich on his immigration answer; if Newt stays in the top tier there will be lots more where that came from.

* Oreos: Simply put, the world’s greatest cookie. And, yes, we did eat 10 of them during the course of the debate. (Don’t tell Mrs. Fix.)

LOSERS

* Herman Cain: The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO seemed lost for much of tonight’s debate. Obviously domestic policy — “9-9-9”! — is his strong suit but Cain also needed to demonstrate a firmer grasp on the foreign policy front in order to be taken seriously as a contender for the Republican nomination. The Cain slide appears to be well under way — if new polling is to be trusted — and he did nothing to arrest it tonight.

* Ron Paul: We wondered aloud earlier today if the Texas Congressman might temper some of his national security/foreign policy views in an attempt to court the more mainstream part of the GOP. Nope! Paul’s views on domestic policy are largely in line with the rest of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination but on foreign policy he is an outlier. It showed tonight as Paul said we should leave Israel to fend for itself, called for disentangling ourselves from Afghanistan and even for an end to the war on drugs. Paul’s base undoubtedly ate up every word. But, tonight’s debate was a case study in just how hard it will be for Paul to be a genuine contender for the nomination.

* Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Gingrich said an EMP was the biggest threat to the country that no one was talking about. Doing a little reading on it, we can confirm it’s scary stuff. Heck, it stopped the machines in “The Matrix”. And it would apparently make Twitter inoperable. We shudder to think.

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