Let me take this moment to sum up the Fox News-Google GOP debate in Orlando.
Rick Perry – As I mentioned earlier, Perry isn’t an attack dog. Turning his focus on Romney didn’t bring out the best in him. I thought he defended his immigration and HPV vaccine policies reasonably well although those positions might work better with independents than with the GOP and Tea Party base.
Mitt Romney – On balance, he got the better of his exchanges with Perry as he did last week in Tampa. Aside from Perry, only Herman Cain took a swipe at Romney and Romney did not respond directly to Cain. It was probably the wisest course of action. Romney did not make any serious mistakes.
Ron Paul – I must admit I liked his response to Megyn Kelly’s question about the morning after pill. When Paul speaks from his perspective as an obstetrician he sounds very pragmatic and practical. This was the case in the last debate when he was asked about treating the uninsured noting that hospitals weren’t in the practice of turning away patients who didn’t have insurance before Medicare.
Then again he didn’t get any foreign policy questions.
Michele Bachmann – She performed adequately. But she continued to make excuses about the HPV vaccine and mental retardation. For her to say ‘I’m just telling you what this woman told me,’ shows a lack of due diligence. She might as well have claimed she was told the HPV vaccine caused small pox. Who is this woman who Bachmann claims said her daughter became mentally retarded after receiving the HPV vaccine? I’d like to hear her story.
Newt Gingrich – I’m with Quin Hillyer in praise of his statement on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. He consistently gets a good pop from the debates crowd. But at this point, Gingrich isn’t resonating as a presidential candidate and I don’t think that has changed.
Herman Cain – If there’s any candidate who deserves more consideration from the national media, it’s Cain. He struck all the right notes. You could say he performed to the nines. The audience was with him throughout the debate. Even the other candidates seemed to be with him especially when he spoke about surviving cancer and how his chances at survival would have been greatly reduced under Obamacare.
Rick Santorum – I don’t think he did as well in this debate as he did a week ago in Tampa although he did give a reasonable answer on DADT. Santorum seemed to catch a case of snarkiness as evidenced in his exchanges with Perry over immigration and Huntsman on Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jon Huntsman – I wasn’t overly impressed with his answer to the question of giving federal subsidies to natural gas companies. But his performance was an improvement from last week in Tampa. Huntsman didn’t carp about Romney or Perry or make any Kurt Cobain references. He appears to have recovered from his case of the snarks (which apparently Santorum caught.)
Gary Johnson – On several occasions in the debate, Johnson pledged he would present a balanced budget to Congress in 2013. The chances of this are about as remote as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.
His presence in this debate would have been a footnote if not for his line about his neighbor’s dogs creating more shovel ready jobs than the Obama Administration.
Conclusion – I think Romney gains in the polls at Perry’s expense. Cain, Huntsman and Paul made the strongest impression in the debate. If any of them break out, I think it’ll be Cain.