If you had to pick a nominee to face President Obama solely on the basis of tonight’s debate –a nd not just the president but the combined forces of the MSM supporting him, like ABC’s moderators — it would surely be Romney, which tells you who won, and decisively.
None of the candidates except Paul had a bad night, and Rick Santorum solidified his clear status as the alternative to Romney, but the much-anticipated Newt attacks on Romney barely materialized and indeed there isn’t even a memorable anti-Mitt line from the entire affair, unless it was in Chinese and hasn’t been translated yet. The former Massachusetts governor was poised, funny, informed, and demonstrated again and again the key media skill that will be needed between now and November: The ability to turn the MSM’s questions back against Obama, to call absurd questions on their face, and to constantly elevate the immediate inquiry to the higher question of the country’s direction.
Being willing to push back against the MSM with the right amount of disdain is a delicate balancing act, easily overdone. But it is what Romney did with the astonishing exchange with George Stephanopoulos on contraception, and when George doubled and then tripled down on the inanity, not only did the audience boo the former Clinton front-man, the nation groaned, and Romney deftly hammered him again and again. If it was a fight it would have been stopped, and the exchange seemed to have rattled both Diane Sawyer and Stephanopoulos who struggled to ask good questions or follow-up appropriately throughout.
You can’t plan a “I paid for this microphone” moment, but Romney’s “silly” rebuff to Stephanopoulos was pretty close, and Newt’s following slam on how the reverse sort of question is never asked completed the rout of ABC.
Romney won. Santorum got the silver. ABC lost. Big time.