Romney Wins (Yeah, I Know, It Bores Me, Too)

by Rich Lowry

A few thoughts about the great condom debate:

Mitt Romney was solid throughout and even deft and sly on the interminable contraception question. He answers every question like he thinks he’s going to be president.  There have been more than a dozen debates and you might be able to count his answers that have been affirmatively bad on one hand. Doesn’t mean that they have all been inspiring, believable, or deep, but they are almost always technically proficient.

Rick Santorum had a terrific night. He was at the center of the action for once, and showed knowledge and poise. He didn’t score any major points on Romney, but he demonstrated he belongs in the top tier. To have a pretty full day of campaigning and then show up and turn in this kind of performance with apparently no debate prep to speak of is quite impressive. He benefited from not having to beg for attention.

Newt Gingrich continues to demonstrate he can go places where the other candidates just can’t, in terms of his depth of knowledge (he even knows a lot about New Hampshire infrastructure, apparently) and of quickness on his feet (few people would have thought to turn around the gay question on the moderators, or done it so powerfully). You wonder, though, whether it gets him anything. Everyone already knows he’s top notch in these forums.

Rick Perry had his best debate yet. But he didn’t get many questions and his answer on Iraq will divert attention from anything else he said.

Ron Paul was the cranky attack dog. It’s not clear he could say anything to grow or diminish his support much at this point. Jon Huntsman was at his most annoying, and that is saying quite a lot. The question with him is whether he can ever win a hearing commensurate with his conservative positions given his tendency to lecture conservatives and his off-putting manners. After tonight, the answer seems to be definitely .