Analysis Of Last Night’s GOP Debate From Florida

Last night may have been the single worst debate yet. The first 30 minutes was almost nothing but tedious bickering that Brian Williams engineered, the questions were extraordinarily bad, and the audience wasn’t supposed to make any noise. It was VERY dull, hit very few important issues, and was very badly done.

4) Ron Paul (C): He came across better than he usually does tonight, in part because he toned it down a bit on foreign policy, and in part because he actually engaged in some good natured joshing with Newt Gingrich that came across well. All in all, Paul had a pretty good night — for him.

2 – Tie) Newt Gingrich: (B-): Newt was off his game tonight. He was a bit subdued, spent a long time effectively parrying attacks from Mitt without drawing blood in return, and he just didn’t seem as energetic as normal. It’s not that Newt was bad, per se. He was solid all night long, but he did have to spend too much time explaining himself early on instead of going after Mitt, Obama, or the moderators — and you don’t win debates on the defensive. It was actually a little surprising that Newt didn’t go after Brian Williams because this may have been the dumbest series of questions the GOP contenders have been asked in any debate yet.

2 – Tie) Mitt Romney (B-): Mitt started out the debate relentlessly on the attack against Gingrich and although his attacks seemed fairly weak, they’ll be followed up with millions of dollars worth of advertising designed to hammer the point home. Moreover, it’s always better to be on offense than on defense and to open the debate, Mitt was definitely the one on offense. Had the debate ended three quarters of the way through, Mitt might have even been in first place.

However, near the end of the debate, when he was asked about his accomplishments for the conservative movement, Mitt’s answer was embarrassingly bad. He started out by mentioning that he had been married, moved on to noting that he had started a business, and then noted several unimpressive things he’d done in Massachussetts, none of which was “Romneycare.” Santorum could have given a good answer to that question, just as Paul could have and Newt has a better pedigree than anyone alive, which he recited when he was given a chance to talk. Mitt, on the other hand, sounded like Megan McCain trying to explain why she earned her job as a columnist. Not only was Mitt’s answer a tremendous turn-off to conservatives, it goes back to his core problem: Why should Republicans want to specifically see Mitt Romney in the White House? Nobody seems to have a really good answer to that question other than his business experience, which didn’t make much of a difference when he was governor of Massachussetts.

1) Rick Santorum (B): Santorum was solid, but not spectacular. He did, however, benefit from 30 minutes of the sort of back and forth nastiness between Mitt and Newt that Mitt and Perry engaged in during the early debates. At a certain point, you just wanted these guys to start going after Obama and not each other. That was a turn-off that helped Santorum, who benefitted from the fact that nobody was looking to rough him up in this debate. Also, Santorum actually scored the best hit of the night on both Newt and Mitt by pointing out that both of them supported TARP, while he didn’t.

PS: As emphasis on the question Mitt muffed, Newt’s team sent out this press release last night.

Mitt Romney’s Top Conservative Achievements

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Yes, that is the entire press release and it goes a long way towards explaining why Mitt’s having trouble connecting with conservative voters.

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