In general, the Gang of 7 survived the CNN sandbagging in good order. Do note that the use of “sandbag” is more of a reflection of a wet, limp bag of sand than a flying bag of sand, but not for the lack of trying on moderator John King’s part.
Of course, some did so better than others, so let’s do a hung-over review in alphabetical order:
- Michele Bachmann – The consensus winner, not in small part by being the only newsmaker of the bunch and announcing her candidacy at the beginning of the debate. She delivered, and not the Biden gaffetastic crazy some of my friends in the center-right coalition believe she is limited to.
- Herman Cain – If I were grading, it would be an Incomplete, though not for a lack of substance. King seemed to treat him as a “token” after he was introduced first. He was markedly improved from the first debate, but he still has a way to go to be a top-tier debater. Bonus points for not whining about the silent treatment from King early.
- Debate format – This was a mixed bag. I liked that the jumping-off questions from the public were, for the most part, appropriate for a GOP debate, even ones from those who from the intro would seem to be prejudiced against the GOP. Then, the “pros” took over, and the debate at times took on a feel of a DNC inquisition.
- Newt Gingrich – The good – he seemed prepared despite losing his entire campaign staff last week. The bad – he seems to think that if the thundering herd wants to stampede right off the cliff, the herd shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so.
- John King – He proved that CNN should never get another GOP debate again.
- Ron Paul – It took a bit longer for the batshit crazy to kick in than usual on any given question, and indeed on a couple answers, it didn’t kick in at all. Unfortunately, it’s never far from the surface and too often erupting like Mt. Vesuvius.
- Tim Pawlenty – I believe 4 letters describe his demurring from the Sunday charge of ObamneyCare – W-I-M-P. Memo to the Anybody-But-Romney crowd; if you’re going to get the first GOP candidate since Dwight Eisenhower that wasn’t Next-In-Line™, you’re going to have to start tearing Romney down when he’s present.
- Mitt Romney – If you doubted that he was Next-In-Line™, doubt no more. He’s running as though he already secured the nomination (and so far, there’s nothing that would disabuse him of that assumption), and didn’t make any major missteps.
- Rick Santorum – The only wave of the night he created was when he unabashedly backed Paul Ryan’s budget. Other than that, I don’t know how he got promoted to the A-list.