by John Hawkins | February 23, 2012 12:01 am
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t a great debate. John King was back as the moderator and he followed the standard pattern of getting the candidates to fight followed by a lot of questions that were designed to keep the heat off of Barack Obama. This debate was especially tedious because they went back to contraception and spent a long time talking earmarks, which is funny since everybody on the stage, including Mitt Romney, was an earmarker.
Here’s how it all broke down.
4) Ron Paul (D-): His suit fit tonight, but the weird laugh and the new, strange hand motions were going on. His spiel was the same old, same old combined with attacks on Rick Santorum — which is pretty typical actually. Paul has been playing wingman to Mitt Romney for months and attacking anyone who threatens him, which is kind of loserish, non-serious, and pathetic — but that’s Ron Paul. Paul was also, as per usual, awful on foreign policy.
3) Rick Santorum (C-): Santorum has improved a lot as a debater, but he’s not in Newt’s class and isn’t quite as good as Mitt either. Although he had his moments hitting Mitt, on foreign policy, and got off a couple of good lines (“If you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out Joe Biden’s position & take the opposite.”), Santorum has a tendency to spend too long explaining himself. For example, he did an okay job of explaining why he backed No Child Left Behind, the good points of earmarks, and why he backed Arlen Specter, but the problem is, you’re never going to convince a conservative audience you’re right on those issues. So, better to just hit it quickly and move on. That, along with the incessant attacks from Paul and Mitt dragged him down a bit.
2) Mitt Romney (B-): Mitt’s a competent debater and perhaps his biggest talent is the ability to get into a poo-flinging fight with whoever’s ahead of him and come out just A LITTLE BIT BETTER than whomever he’s fighting with, in large part, because he lies incessantly. Basically Mitt’s philosophy in a debate is, “Anything you dislike, I didn’t do and would not support, but any thing you do like, I certainly did and am for” and the truth NEVER gets in his way. Newt smacked him on that for attacking Santorum over earmarks when he was taking earmarks himself as the governor of Massachussetts. Mitt also has a tendency to give these long tortured explanations for why he didn’t do what you think he did and obviously was blameless which doesn’t sound particularly good either. Still, Mitt was competent and deserved his B — barely.
1) Newt Gingrich (A): As per usual, Newt was the best guy on the stage and he benefitted from not having everyone else trying to take his head off since he’s dropped back in the polls. He sounded knowledgable, bloodied Mitt a bit, smacked Obama around, and even gored John King over his stupid contraceptives question. King, for his part, seemed happy that Newt showed him mercy and allowed him to keep his innards after asking his dumb question. It was a really strong performance for Newt and honestly, he’s probably the only person who should be genuinely helped by this debate.
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