Gingrich performed better than anybody in the debate, although Michele Bachmann REALLY hurt him among women by fighting back against him repeatedly saying she has her facts wrong (she doesn’t) in a way that sounded like, well, a male chauvinist correcting a “little lady.” And all the other attacks on him on Iowa TV, all well-founded, mean that his campaign is really in at least temporary difficulty overall. The Freddie/Fannie attacks against him really hurt, too, even though he handled it as well as anybody could have. It didn’t matter that he handled it that well, because the facts are so strong that the stench sticks to him.
Bachmann did fine overall. Not well enough to emerge as a major contender again, though.
Romney did very well, as usual.
Perry had his ONLY really solid debate (overall) of the year. But it doesn’t make up for all his earlier problems. I don’t see him re-emerging.
Huntsman again was insufferable.
Ron Paul, on Iran, committed political suicide. It didn’t matter that other than that he was very effective.
Santorum did very well on abortion and on economics. But he still didn’t grab hold of voters’ attention. He has been solid in every debate, but he needed to transcend, in some way, his opponents. He didn’t. I give him a solid B. But his hopes now rest on his hard work and ground game in Iowa; he didn’t emerge tonight as a powerful, charismatic force.
So…. that’s how they all PERFORMED tonight. Who BENEFITTED most, overall, politically, from tonight? Alas, Romney — unless debate follow-up supports Santorum’s attack on him on homosexual marriage and then somehow it stays in the news and sticks. (Talking politically, that is, from as neutral an analyst position as I can muster. NONE of this particular blog post involves my own views on issues.)
Now, watch the Spectator main page tomorrow morning for my column (written BEFORE the debate) predicting the shape of the campaign to come….