Here We Go Again: GOP Meets for NBC Inquisition

In just a few minutes, at 9am EST on MSNBC.(!) Hopefully we can finally get some answers on the burning condom controversy that has engulfed the mind of George Stephanoupolos. And, we’ll see how David Gregory tries to use his platform to distract the American public from issues they care about.

Mike Flynn, Editor, BigGovernment:

After 15 debates, the GOP field has collectively become much better at avoiding the lefty moderators’ traps. For much of the legacy media, these debates have seemingly been about getting sound bites from GOP candidates that Obama and the Democrats can use in the Fall against them. In this morning’s debate, David Gregory mostly failed in this effort.

The candidates seemed more relaxed this morning. I think the long-ish break between the two previous debates had made everyone a bit cautious last night. Santorum was the most improved since the ABC debate, seeming more confident with several solid responses and some fairly good attacks on Romney. To me, he still usually looks too smug, but obviously that’s subjective. (Did he really single-handedly get welfare reform passed?)

Ron Paul had another good performance. I disagree aggressively with his views on foreign policy, but he articulated them well without jumping on the crazy train. His is a cause candidacy; trying to inject his ideas into the conversation. He has succeeded in that.

Newt mostly had a good performance. At the end, under questioning about SuperPAC ads against him, he flirted with the whiny, complaining Newt that has served him poorly. David Gregory, and probably most of the viewing audience, noted the irony of his appeal to the authority of the New York Times and Washington Post. And, does anyone really believe that Newt has not seen this film he keeps talking about?

Rick Perry had another solid performance, but this was undercut by the general lack of attention paid to him. If he can reverse his slide in the polls, he will get more time and if he performs as he has over these last debates it may help him. His insider/outsider theme could be a powerful one, but I think he needs to get more comfortable with calling out his individual opponents with some specifics.

Huntsman stuck to English today. He also remembered that he has an economic plan better than the Simpson-Bowles plan and that he had a solid conservative record as Governor. Things might have been different for him if he had chosen this campaign theme rather than try to be some New Age candidate.

Romney finally faced robust criticisms from the other nominees. He navigated through these fairly well, but exposed cracks that could be exploited by the other nominees or Obama. That said, he didn’t do anything here to arrest his commanding lead in New Hampshire.

South Carolina is where things get very interesting, especially as the field will likely further thin after a post-New Hampshire Huntsman exit.