I think Romney did well. But he had few great moments and some very weak ones.
For instance, his answer on what he did for conservatism was very bad. He began with: I raised a family! I started a business! Well, there are lots of liberals who raised families and started businesses. Those are admirable things but they have nothing to do with advancing conservatism. And that’s fine! Conservatism is only a partial philosophy of life and there’s no shame whatsoever and much honor in dedicating your life to family and work. But by beginning that way it sent the signal that he didn’t have a good answer and by the time he got to his record it was already clear he wasn’t going to sell it. He doesn’t seem to understand that if you’re going to run as someone who didn’t spend his life in politics that also probably means you didn’t spend your life helping the conservative movement. He should just admit that and say he wants to make his contribution to conservatism now.
I think he probably drew blood with Gingrich in the long fight scene. But Gingrich was probably smart to be less grandiose tonight. It made Romney’s sobriety seem less reassuring than it would if Gingrich was up there doing his whole world-historical schtick.
Ultimately, Romney probably won narrowly in a boring debate in which no one was very bad. Not good enough, I don’t think.