I didn’t live blog last night’s debate because 1.) it’s too early to be meaningful and 2.) none of the top-tier candidates participated. That said, here are a few reactions.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was effective, particularly in his attack on the Obama NRLB’s Boeing decision, which will obviously play well in South Carolina. Pawlenty looked like he could debate Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.
Herman Cain had the Ross Perotesque “I’m a businessman who can get under the hood and fix it” appeal, which was popular with Frank Luntz’s focus group. His foreign policy answers, which usually amounted to deferring to unnamed experts, were weak.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum is a skilled commentator and debater, and he put it to good use. I don’t think it’s enough for him to emerge as a major player, however, unless the field doesn’t grow beyond the candidates at last night’s debate.
Congressman Ron Paul has easily done more television since 2007 — and probably even in just the past two years — than in his first 30 years of political life. It showed last night with the best debate performance I’ve seen him have yet. Paul also made efforts to modulate his message for a wider Republican audience, such as with his answer on Israel.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has a better presidential resume than Paul. But nothing I saw in this debate changed my impression that he’ll actually be less effective than Paul in pressing a libertarian message and I think he’ll have trouble breaking through with Paul in the race.
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