Here is my candidate by candidate breakdown of tonight's Tea Party Express Debate in Tampa Bay.
Rick Perry - Aside from his earlier exchange with Romney on the Texas economy (and to a lesser extent his comments on the Federal Reserve), Perry did not acquit himself well not only on the HPV vaccine but on the question of providing instate tuition to illegal immigrants which drew heavy jeering. He seemed unsure of himself and on the defensive. I don't know if I would count him out but he's definitely knocked down a few pegs.
Mitt Romney - Aside from his earlier exchange with Perry on the Texas economy, Romney acquitted himself well. I don't think Romney necessarily won anyone over with his latest explanation of Romney Care but he didn't hurt himself either. I also liked the fact he said he would bring a bust of Winston Churchill back to the White House. If Perry's numbers drop because of this debate then look for Romney to be the chief beneficiary.
Michele Bachmann - She had a feisty exchange with Perry over the HPV vaccine and spoke passionately about repealing Obamacare. I'm not sure if this will result in a bump in her poll numbers.
Rick Santorum - The reason I say Bachmann might not get a bump is because Santorum had a very good night. Whether he was talking about Social Security, going toe to toe with Perry on the HPV vaccine and tearing into Ron Paul over blaming America the September 11th attacks he was a force in the debate. I think Santorum will get a second look.
Ron Paul - He deservedly drew derision from the audience when he essentially became an apologist for al Qaeda. Since when do we let jihadists dictate our foreign policy? Anyone who makes excuses for our enemies is not fit to be President of the United States.
Herman Cain - I think this was his best showing in any of the debates. He presented constructive ideas and did so without criticizing any of the other candidates. Of course, this might not help his poll numbers. But I think he made a really positive impression.
Jon Huntsman - He was constantly sniping at Perry and Romney. It came across as snarky. I mean even Perry managed to get some sympathy when Huntsman said that the Texas Governor had made a "treasonous comment" when he said he couldn't secure the entire Mexican border with a fence. I also think Huntsman is the first person in human history to have ever likened Mitt Romney to Kurt Cobain. Aside from drawing applause for stating he would bring the troops home from Afghanistan, Huntsman did little to help his cause.
Newt Gingrich - He had his moments like when he said that President Obama was scaring people on a daily basis and when he placed scrutiny on GE after Blitzer tried to focus his attention on the oil companies. I also noticed that Santorum seemed particularly friendly towards him. But I don't think these moments are enough to improve his fortunes.
In the final analysis, the biggest winners in the debate were Romney closely followed by Santorum and Cain. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman were the biggest losers. Paul and Gingrich haven't demonstrated the viability of their campaign while the jury is still out on Michele Bachmann. But a week in politics is a lifetime, never mind ten days when they converge again in Orlando.
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