Watching the latest (I’ve lost count of the number) Republican candidates’ debate in Detroit made me wish we could have a composite candidate with the best from all of them, because each has something valuable to contribute. There were no winners or losers, because they mostly did not attack each other, though Gov. Rick Perry did not help himself when he apparently suffered a brain cramp and couldn’t remember the third federal agency he would cut after Education and Commerce. He remembered later that it is Energy, but the damage had been done.
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Gov. Mitt Romney had a new look. He was far more animated than usual and he had strands of hair hanging down like developing bangs. It may be as close as he gets to being laid back, or casual.
Newt Gingrich has compared himself to a tortoise and Romney to a hare. Indeed, Newt’s popularity numbers continue to rise in proportion to his serious and detailed answers to sometimes difficult questions. Again, he got in one slam at the media, which always scores well with Republican voters (the crowd booed when the subject of sexual-harassment charges was brought up to Herman Cain). Romney wisely decided not to answer when he was asked if he’d hire someone like Cain with so many accusations against him.
Gingrich got off the best line of the night when he faulted the media for not asking the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators if they have a clue how the new economy works. His campaign got a boost from Dorothy Rabinowitz in a Wall Street Journal column Tuesday titled “Why Gingrich Could Win.” Gingrich wants to challenge President Obama to a series of Lincoln-Douglas–style debates that would last for three hours and get into great detail about everything that matters. I have no doubt Gingrich would win such a debate.
Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman gave good answers, but they are back in the pack and unless something dramatic happens that would make voters take another look at them, they probably will not move up. Some have faulted the number of these debates, but especially given that this is the first time in more than 40 years there hasn’t been a “next in line” for Republicans, these appearances help voters separate the good from the bad and determine which candidate is most electable.
— Cal Thomas is a syndicated and USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor.