Tonight’s big loser was, once again, the moderator. This time it was CNN’s John King, who was clearly playing favorites in the way he allocated the time, directing much of the debate towards former Govs. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty in favor of the other candidates. And he kept clearing his throat — or grunting, or something — during the answers. Couldn’t a producer have told him his mic was on?
Then there were those silly “This or That?” questions. Whoever thought that was a good idea ought to be on the first train out of town with plans to change their name and find a new profession. “Leno or Conan?” “Deep dish or thick crust?” Why not “Paper or Plastic?”
As far as the actual debate was concerned, nobody landed a knockout blow or committed a fatal error. There were some good moments, though — like when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who I have worked for) landed a solid blow against Obama’s National Labor Relations Board for trying to punish Boeing for expanding operations in a right-to-work state, or when former senator Rick Santorum pointed out, in a very Reagan-like way that “Our enemies no longer respect us. Our allies no longer trust us.”
Sure, Pawlenty wimped out when asked to defend his “Obamneycare” line, but he did turn it into a pretty effective attack on Obama.
And Romney was strong, hanging back until he could get in a good jab at the current president, acting like the frontrunner the latest polls say he is.
The others — Bachmann, Cain, and Ron Paul — gave solid answers but didn’t do much to further their campaigns. They played to their individual bases — and probably got the responses the hoped to get.
Final result: No big winner.
— Peter Roff a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report and a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty, was once political director at GOPAC.