The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

A Debate to Remember? Eh, Probably Not.


In the last Morning Jolt of the week, a quick roundup of debate reactions:

The First Debate, the GOP’s Version of Preseason Football

“Something very special happened this evening,” declared Fox News’s Wizard of the Dial-Based Instant Polls, Frank Luntz, discussing the reaction to former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain in his focus group. Thursday night was the first GOP debate — but with a limited lineup of Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum.

Like with the Hall of Fame Game that kicks off the NFL season, most of the big-name starters remained on the bench: No appearance by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, or Mitch Daniels. Actually, perhaps we should handle all future debates like preseason football; give the big names like Palin and Romney and Huckabee a series of questions and then let them stand on the sidelines while the rising stars get to play for roster spots. Eh, that metaphor breaks down somewhere.

Erick Erickson has a gripe with the Luntz panel: “OK, I bought the Luntz panel saying Cain came in first. Now I question their mental competence saying Santorum came in second.”

Guy Benson: “If I *had* to pick a winner tonight, it’s Pawlenty. Very strong out of the gate. Seemed solid, pretty polished, & credible.”

Jedediah Bila: “Winner in my opinion tonight: Herman Cain. Why? Authenticity. It comes through. Would’ve liked more specifics from him on foreign policy issues.”

John Podhoretz: “The praise for Herman Cain is basically a choice of ‘none of the above.’ I’m somewhat impressed by Pawlenty, but he needs to lose the spray-on tan.”

The newly-wed Mary Katharine Ham (shouldn’t she be on her honeymoon?) isn’t surprised. “Anyone surprised focus group is saying Cain won: If you’re funny, you win. If you’re charming, you win. Herman Cain both. Charisma matters . . . Cain’s take on political experience, ‘How’s that workin’ for ya?’ is the perfect encapsulation of the current feeling for many voters.” If I remember correctly, Obama offered a similar argument in 2008, citing Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as the embodiment of experienced Washington insiders to Democratic primary voters.

Phil Klein scores it completely differently: “I thought Santorum helped himself the most tonight. Ron Paul came off better than usual. Everyone else was sort of par.”

Over in the Corner, Kyle Peterson was on-scene and offers a summary.

Tags: Herman Cain , Rick Santorum , Ron Paul , Tim Pawlenty


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review