The GOP debate–the aftermath
The GOP held a debate in Iowa last night, and it was, as Ezra Klein said, a field that, for the most part, didn’t really disagree over policy, but “they disagreed over fealty to policy.” Who was the most super-conservative.
The main criticism? The usual. Stephen Hayes says:
"What was missing from the debate, and what is missing from the Republican field, is a candidate who can explain and inspire. But there were no Ronald Reagans on the stage tonight. And, in fairness, there never are.”
The question, then, is will the entrance of Rick Perry change that? That was sort of the pregnant elephant in the room last night.
Michelle Bachman and Tim Pawlenty got into a bit of a heated exchange. But as Steve Kornaki points out, that’s not the fight he should have picked:
"Pawlenty’s strategy, if that’s what this reflected, was completely backward. The fight he picked with Bachmann was virtually guaranteed to be a losing one. … A much riper target for Pawlenty would have been — and always has been — Romney. … By aggressively pressing Romney on his (many) vulnerabilities, Pawlenty would have stood to (a) weaken the front-runner, a man whose role (consensus establishment choice, at least for now) he wants for himself; (b) establish his own purist bona fides with the base; and (c) shake off the boring/lifeless image."
Chris Cilliza is less critical of the Pawlenty performance but still found it wanting:
"First Hour Tim Pawlenty … was forceful in taking the fight to Bachmann … Pawlenty’s nice guy persona allows him to attack without seeming over the top. He was a major player in the first 60 minutes – a place he needed to be if he wanted to shake things up before the Saturday straw poll. … Pawlenty disappeared in the second 60 minutes – largely because he didn’t get many questions. But when you need to find ways to change the dynamic of the race, you have to find ways to inject yourself into the conversations and create your own opportunities. And Pawlenty didn’t do that."
The Pawlenty/Bachman spat left Romney pretty much alone during the debate as Alexander Burns points out.
"[W]ith Pawlenty and Bachmann focused on each other, … Romney took little heat from his fellow Republicans. Indeed, virtually all of the candidates helped confirm – in one form or another – that Romney will likely face a tougher political challenge from a late-announcing candidate like Texas Gov. Rick Perry than from any of his currently declared rivals."
All in all, pretty much as expected. Ron Paul was Ron Paul – nothing new there. And Jon Huntsman tried to set himself apart a bit. Rick Santorum may as well go home along with Newt Gingrich. Herman Cain is an attractive candidate but just doesn’t have the experience or the following to push him through.
The battle seems to be settling down between Romney, Bachman and Pawlenty. The entry of Rick Perry will most likely relegate both Bachman and Pawlenty to the second tier.
How it will eventually turn out is anyone’s guess at this point, but Rick Perry stands to make the race much more interesting. If it is “the economy, stupid” as the driving issue for the next election, Perry’s record in Texas vs. Obama’s nationally, is going to be a very interesting and telling comparison.