I think I’ll do this one scattershot-style, because really there’s no headline to be had here.
Mitt Romney is easily the best in the field at doing this; he’s really the only one up there who seems even remotely well-cast as a presidential candidate. Of the rest, I suppose Rick Santorum shows pretty good statewide-debate-level chops, and Ron Paul certainly has his Ron Paul thing down cold. The other six are just awful at it.
Best canned line of the night is an easy call: Gary Johnson’s dog joke. Worst performance of a canned line all night: Rick Perry’s flip-flop attack on Romney. Just a spectacularly poor job on an easy attack. Best response came from Dave Weigel: “Perry doing his impersonation of George Foreman in Zaire.”
Incredible lack of light bulbs, czars, teleprompters and other reliable standards. Odd choice of the candidates to ditch all that for the positive message of Reagan, Reagan, Reagan.
It’s hard to tell whether these candidates have a basic grasp of policy beyond the most superficial talking points. Both Perry (on his astonishingly bad Pakistan answer) and Romney (on a Romneycare answer) left room for devastating attacks, but no one was either knowledgeable enough to notice or sharp enough to see it and come up with a good line — which left dozens of operatives smacking their heads in frustration.
Did I mention Rick Perry’s answer on Pakistan yet? Asked what he would do in the case of a 3 a.m. phone call saying that the Taliban had control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, Perry’s answer was that, as president, he would have strengthened the U.S. alliance with India … and so he could let India handle it. At least, that’s the closest I could get to understanding it.
Does Rick Perry really believe that small businesses in Texas now hire more people because he made it harder for patients to sue their doctors?
Herman Cain seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
Michele Bachmann doesn’t seem even remotely bound by facts, does she?
The ability of these Republican debate crowds to embarrass their party – this time, by booing the gay soldier – continues to be the theme of the debate season. It’s worth noting that, this time and last, it was a handful of people, so it’s even remotely fair to tar the whole party with the actions of a few blowhards, but it really is something, nevertheless.
And I have no bullet point at all for Jon Huntsman.
Remember, the main way these early debates matter is to the extent, if any, that Republican Party actors take them into consideration when making choices. I have no idea what they’re thinking, but it’s hard to imagine that Rick Perry is helping himself so far.