In the world of Twitter, YouTube, and the 24/7 news cycle, these debates bear a much closer resemblance to a baseball season than to prize fights. In other words, consistency is key and you can’t win it all in one night. There are only two people who demonstrate consistency night-in and night-out, and that’s Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Paul is consistent only in the sense that he seems to be incapable of thinking clearly and wastes time that we could be spending getting to know the next GOP nominee. And he’s 76-years-old. The only reason you don’t know that fact is because none of his opponents are threatened by his candidacy enough to point it out.
Our only rock-steady debater is Mitt. Though he’s rarely inspiring, he simply doesn’t give a bad answer and has a thoughtful response to every challenge. Not only can he take a punch, he’s the only candidate who gets himself up for every go-round and is eager to engage. Compare that with Rick Perry–clearly a good man and an effective Governor–who has done nothing in the past eight weeks to demonstrate that he could make his high school debate team, much less go toe to toe with Obama and then the world. Tonight was the night where the giant Vaudeville cane should have come out to pull him off stage.
Bachmann shows flashes of brilliance but simply doesn’t have the stage presence that she had a couple months ago.
Jon Huntsman, armed with more hacky jokes than an episode of “Whitney,” is the only candidate who comes off as smug, which is breathtaking considering he essentially isn’t registering in the polls.
Increasingly likeable as the weeks go on, Rick Santorum is my sleeper pick in the VP sweepstakes, though that may only be because I want to watch him stare down evil despots with his perpetual “what’s your deal, bro?” facial expression.
No doubt about it, Herman Cain can turn a phrase, but a bumper sticker economic plan does not a campaign make. He’s a great American, but with no political record to speak of, he’ll need to impress voters with policy specifics beyond 9-9-9–which, even if passed, could be just one Democratic administration away from becoming 20-20-20–if he hopes to continue his recent surge.
The one other person (besides the rising Cain) I think could make a jump in the polls and challenge Romney is Newt Gingrich. Arguably the smartest person on the stage and with a record and experience to run on, Newt’s list of personal negatives shouldn’t be a deal-breaker when the stakes are so high and no candidate has been able to separate his/herself from the pack. If he makes his presence felt with more moments like this one, he could become a factor in this race.
Yet, as is usually the case, this debate was won by the Democrat Media Complex, who somehow convinced the Republicans to hand over their primary to a WaPo JournoLista, David Shuster’s wife, and Charlie Rose. No wonder Obama was hoisting a beer tonight.