Last night the GOP field gathered in Vegas for its 439th debate. We should be tired of these by now, but I'm still drawn to them. Thoughts:
Romney. Still the best guy on stage, as far as intelligence, grasp of every issue, the calm he exudes, and his hair. But our man Mitt made a few mistakes last night for the first time in these debates. Putting his hand on Rick Perry's shoulder as he condescendingly explained to the crowd that 'Rick has had a tough couple of debates...' was not his finest moment. He looked mean. He also screwed up when he said 'of course I've never hired illegals, I'm running for president' as though he'd hire them otherwise. He's still better than everyone else, but made two unforced errors, the latter of which may haunt him. Best moment: when he told the crowd 'let's be clear: everyone on this stage supports legal immigration.'
Perry. Best debate so far, but let's be fair-that was a low bar to clear. Really fumbled the opportunity to address his pastor denouncing Mormonism as a cult. Attempted to draw blood from Romney on the hiring illegals issue and appears convinced he has a winner-he does not. Best moment (at least, the one that produced the biggest cheer of the night from MY couch: during a foreign aid discussion, when he said it was finally time to take a look at UN funding.
Newt. Still Newt, impossible not to love him. Best moment: when he said if he's the nominee, he'll challenge Obama to three Lincoln-Douglass style debates. (Can you imagine Obama in a setting where he has to talk for three hours on his own, with no prompter?)
Santorum. A scold. He is right on substance 99% of the time, but he is a jerk about 50% of the time. He really likes to cite his PA Senate races as proof of his electability. I'm mystified as to why he does this, because one can only be reminded of his 18-point loss.
Cain. Loveable, did not attack anyone on stage, but I'm starting to think he's just not ready. He deserves applause for coming up with a bold economic plan, but he really stumbles on issues not related to economics. Still, a happy warrior. Bright future.
Bachmann. Not bad. Very good on immigration, 9-9-9, and negotiating with terrorists. A Hillary-in-New-Hampshire moment when she pleaded with moms not to give up, life would get better when she was in office. It was quite heartfelt and appeared genuine. Screwed all of this up when she demanded time at the end to repeat 'Barack Obama is a one-term President.' Somehow forgot to mention her 23 foster children.
Ron Paul. Doofus. The man desperately needs a better tailor. Like Cain, bold economic proposals, but when he cited the need for cutting foreign aid even to Israel, you couldn't help but inwardly groan.
Huntsman. Absent. As much of an impact as he's had at other debates.
Very Romney-friendly crowd. I think Perry just may have moved the needle slightly for himself, but Cain's numbers will likely deflate.
And overall, nothing changes.