11 October 2011

The new frontrunner, Herman Cain (mostly) holds his own

I'm not sure who won the debate, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the heckler at the end.

If Rick Perry had performed like this in his first debate, he might have held onto front-runner status. Not that he did anything particularly impressive, he just didn't fall apart. Given that this was his fourth debate, and the other candidates aren't even bothering to attack him any more, I don't think it as enough to revive his standing. And even if it does, I still don't think he'll be able to handle attacks.

Herman Cain certainly appeared to be a frontrunner, as his 9-9-9 plan (not from outer space) was singled out for criticism by nearly everybody, and Ron Paul chose to be Cain's Secret Santa during the candidate smackdown segment. On the one hand, Cain was in no way intimidated by the attacks, and, unlike Perry in earlier debates, also did not seem surprised at the criticism. I thought his "three reasons" response to Santorum, while strong in presentation, was a bit weak on the substance. His response to Paul, in which he denied making some statements Paul had referenced, and agreed with a need to audit the Fed, was fine, but he may have hurt himself later with his praise for Greenspan. We'll see if this dents his Tea Party support.

Romney's strategy throughout the night was to try to elevate himself and avoid attacks on people who are actual threats. His question, directed at Michele Bachmann, was fairly gentle, and allowed her to give a decent response. He replied to an early Huntsman criticism by characterizing it as the opinion of "some people." I think he is hoping not to draw too much fire, and keep a strong enough position to narrow the field after the early primaries.

This has simply got to be the last debate where Huntsman gets a seat at the table. I shouldn't have to explain that.

Santorum has turned in some good performances in these debates, but I don't think tonight was his best. I don't think he scored any points on Cain, although that seemed to be his goal.

The biggest question I've got is: "How many stellar debate performances will it take before people forget the 1990s and take Newt seriously as a presidential candidate?"

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