The Washington Post

GOP debate — or screaming match? A digest of another Romney win.

It sounds even more petty on TV moment: Rick Santorum and Rick Perry each get into a shouting match with Mitt Romney, who repeatedly insists, “I’m talking now.”

Perry is getting really desperate moment: The Texas governor says that Romney once knowingly employed illegal immigrants. Sure, Romney had it coming with his nasty attacks on Perry over immigration in other debates. But, still, this isn’t becoming.

Romney is still a little clueless moment: In an otherwise effective response to Perry, Romney explains that he told his landscaping company that no illegal immigrants could work on his lawn because he was running for office. And if you weren’t running for office, Mitt?

And he can be mean, too, moment: About Perry, Romney remarks, “This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick.”

Anderson Cooper’s smackdown moment: Perry even gets into a fight with the moderator, saying that he can answer questions however he wants. Cooper: “That’s a response, not an answer.”

Freedom of religion — as long as you’re religious — moment: Newt Gingrich says, “The notion that you are endowed by your creator sets a certain boundary on what we mean by ‘American.’”

Shameless swing-state pandering moment: Candidate after candidate tells the Nevada audience that they oppose the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository.

Red meat or red herring? moment: With America running large deficits, Perry says it’s time to have a serious national debate about foreign aid. Which is less than 2 percent of the federal budget.

It wouldn’t be a GOP debate if Michele Bachmann didn’t do something like this moment: The Minnesota congresswoman says, “Now with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched too thin, and he put our special operations forces in Africa.”

The bottom line: Rick Perry took his biggest whack yet at Mitt Romney, attacking him especially hard on immigration, which has been an area of weakness for Perry among conservatives. But the Texas governor was far too aggressive, and Romney parried Perry well, even though he occasionally seemed to take the attacks a little too personally. Despite harsh criticism of the national sales tax in Cain’s 9-9-9 plan early in the debate, Romney was the center of the rest of the program, which marginalized Cain and cemented the impression that the former pizza CEO is peaking, or already has. Another Romney debate win, even if he lost a little above-the-fray lustre in the process.

Stephen Stromberg is a Post editorial writer. He specializes in domestic policy, including energy, the environment, legal affairs and public health.


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