Sunday’s GOP presidential debate was everything Saturday’s was not. The questions were substantive, the issues were topical and the moderating was solid. 10 hours after the woefully produced ABC debate, the six candidates took the stage again in New Hampshire.
The rest of the field came out trying to tear down frontrunner Mitt Romney. Did they succeed? Here’s a look at how each candidate fared, in alphabetical order, followed by winners and losers:
Newt Gingrich: The former House Speaker came out firing against frontrunner Mitt Romney. Gingrich said Romney’s claim that he’s not a career politician is “pious baloney”. His disdain for Romney was reminiscent of how John McCain reacted to the former Massachusetts governor four years ago. He painted Romney as elitist and was able showcase the negative super PAC ads produced by Mitt’s supporters as “dishonest”. Gingrich performed well.
Jon Huntsman: If you didn’t know Huntsman, you would find him to be a credible, conservative candidate after watching this debate. It was probably the highlight of his entire campaign. However, the former ambassador to China was a little too over the top in taking offense to Romney’s criticisms about the fawning letters Huntsman wrote to President Obama. Conservatives are offended by any Republican who praises Obama as a “remarkable leader”.
Ron Paul: The Texas congressman sounded less wacky than usual and had some good moments when discussing liberty. He avoided tangling with his cohorts too much and that helped. It is odd that Paul very rarely criticizes Romney, but consistently goes after Gingrich and Santorum. Does his campaign realize Romney is the frontrunner?
Rick Perry: The Texas governor keeps getting better in the debates. Of course, there was nowhere to go but up, but his performance Sunday made him look, dare I say “presidential”. It’s too little, too late, but Perry did very well.
Mitt Romney: The GOP frontrunner faced attacks from all sides, but he remained composed and delivered another solid debate. Since this debate did little to change the dynamic of the race, Romney can call this a victory.
Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator showed he is more than just a social conservative crusader. He delivered an excellent answer when asked what his reaction would be if a son told him he was gay. Santorum might have dispelled some of the anti-gay labels he has been slapped with. It was a good debate all around.
Overall Winner: NBC. They showed a rival network how a presidential debate is supposed to be done.
Overall Loser: Everyone on the stage not named Mitt Romney. Though he did not perform any better than the others, he walked away mostly unscathed from their attacks. At this point, Romney seems assured a landslide victory in New Hampshire.
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