My post-debate take, which is of course made vastly more relevant by the fact that… I followed it onsite rather than online. Well, online at onsite. Generally, these events are a bit different from the inside, including (surprisingly) less chances to schmooze with the candidates than you’d expect. A ‘spin room’ is there primarily to get access to raw material for the article that you need to write the next day; if you were thinking that candidates would hold court there, well… no. Still useful for getting access to campaign managers and press liaisons, though.
Anyway, my take, alphabetically:
- Michele Bachmann: Had a good night, not that it matters at this point. Her exchange with Perry over aid to Pakistan deserves its own post, but let me give the gist of my thinking on it: Bachmann’s right that nukes complicate what we can do about Pakistan, and Perry’s right that giving what he (and I) called a ‘blank check’ doesn’t seem to be having an effect anyway*.
- Herman Cain: Foreign policy is generally considered to be not Cain’s patch, and he didn’t really have many opportunities to prove people wrong on this – or prove them catastrophically right. He got through it; about all you can say.
- Newt Gingrich: he consumed less debate moderator liver this time around, but made up for it by gnawing on Romney’s for a while over immigration. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on illegal immigration, it’s simple: Newt was more polite to opponents. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney is on illegal immigration, it’s… less than you think (link fixed) – or, more importantly, what Team Romney wants you to think. The Gingrich campaign sent that around after the Romney campaign claimed, post-debate, that Gingrich was ‘pro-amnesty:’ that dust-up also deserves its own post, so suffice it to say right now that Romney comes off the worse for this exchange – and that I miss Tim Russert, and so should you.
- Jon Huntsman: Had a good night, not that it matters at this point… wait, no, there’s still the chance that he spokes Romney’s wheel in New Hampshire.
- Ron Paul: …was Ron Paul. Which is to say, he was more or less out of step with more or less everybody on foreign affairs. On the other hand, he was the only person in the room to admit that DC has no intention of instituting the ‘automatic’ spending cuts supposedly imposed by the super-committee, which happens to be both true, and something that made Romney go off the beam for a bit.
- Rick Perry: Last night, somebody, somewhere, said that being a Perry supporter watching the debates is like being a white-knuckle flyer. …Yes, it is. Fortunately, my presence at the debate wasn’t bad luck or anything; there were a couple of pregnant pauses, but nothing for the next-day analyses. Good answer about going after Iran’s central bank, but not for the reasons that you think: it was a good answer because it was prompt. At this point, Perry needs to present himself as a person who is up to speed on the issues, mostly because his debate performances previously have not precisely reassured many people about that. Also: note that calling for Congress to go part-time is not an applause line in DC. Which is in itself an excellent reason to institute such a program.
- Willard Romney. Well, let’s see… first off, there was that joke: “I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.” Which is why Mitt Romney doesn’t often make jokes. Moving on, I definitely like Romney best when he’s talking about how awesome America is; he should do more of that. Aside from those two items… well. Romney’s reaction to both Paul and Gingrich when challenged is interesting. He gets flustered and loses his cool a little. This is probably because of lack of experience: after all, Romney’s only been elected once in almost twenty years of actively seeking public office. Which is a slam on my part, but unfortunately for Romney it’s not an inaccurate slam. I would have more confidence in the man if he had a track record of winning elections, instead of a data point.
- Rick Santorum. …I broadly agree with Santorum on defense issues. And he didn’t whine about how many questions he was asked. And he worked the spin room afterward for longer than any of the other candidates. De mortuis nil nisi bonum.
Lastly: the hosts of this debate – CNN, Heritage, and AEI – did a very nice job with both the debate generally, and with outreach to New Media sources (like, well, RedState**). The logistics to these things are formidable, by the way: successfully presenting a debate is not easy, but they did it. I liked the questions that were asked, but we needed more about Europe – and, closer to home, more about Operation Fast and Furious. If it was September, I’d say that meant cutting down the candidates at these debates… but it’s almost December, and I’m resigned to that not happening.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*As I said, I’m going to write about this later.
**Full disclosure: I’ve always gotten along well with Heritage.