The First Real GOP 2012 Primary Debate

Mitt Romney came across like a frontrunner, taking the debate directly to the president — serious, steady, generous, and respectful of the rest of the Republican field.

For the most part, it was an overwhelmingly serious and sober debate. (Save for a few moments — and the Palin or Biden question?!?)

Tim Pawlenty got practice in his first real primary debate; his staff will make him re-watch that health-care answer and threaten to pull a Team Gingrich if he does that again.

Michele Bachmann was gracefully assertive in demonstrating her credentials, putting herself in what I would think is an excellent position for Iowa.

Rick Santorum got a chance to remind people he’s done some real work in Washington (some of which this president has undone), and had Paul Ryan’s back. He does not have Bachmann’s color, but he is a solid.

Newt … I can’t pretend to know what he’s thinking.

I am still scratching my head at Herman Cain’s Muslim revisit.

Exclamation points, aside, Ron Paul actually made a marriage point I heard just last week made by a co-panelist at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in D.C. last week. 

Winners: Romney was steady as he wants to be and Bachmann took the night.

John King offered a lesson: More foreign policy, less reminding people of TV shows they usually skip CNN for.   

Speaking of King: Did he get a guaranteed Huntsman exclusive in exchange for that plug? 

More debate reax at @kathrynlopez.

Kathryn Jean Lopez — Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.