Tonight is the first major Republican debate of the 2012 cycle. (One was held in May, but most of the participants were relative longshots: Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum. Tonight all of those, minus Johnson, will return and be joined by Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich.)
Remember the first Republican debate of the 2008 cycle?
… Yeah, I didn’t think so. It was moderated by Chris Matthews and John Harris of Politico at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California on May 3, 2007. You can find the transcript here.
In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing that the entire GOP field agreed to have Matthews moderate their first debate. That was one of my gripes in my wrap-up, found here.
Last time around, there was a near-consensus that Romney was, if not the winner, among the top performers; one other instant poll suggested Rudy Giulani was the other big winner. Of course, once voters started casting ballots in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, etcetera, that early win didn’t really matter much.
Ironically, one of the few semi-memorable lines came from the eventual nominee, John McCain, and it is probably remembered because he reused it several times during the 2008 campaign, pledging to pursue Osama bin Laden to “the gates of Hell.”
Tonight, if any of the competitors is lucky, they will emerge with one memorable line or particularly compelling argument. But otherwise, barring some major implosion, we will not recall much of tonight’s debate in a few months’ time.