For once I have had the chance to watch one of the debates of the 2012 campaign, and man did I pick a good night to watch. Talk about a boxing match. While there are/were (depending on when you are reading this) eight candidates on the stage, it really is a 3.5 person show. Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachmann were baited into a face-off against each other, and they aren’t holding back. Newt Gingrich has taken on the debate moderators and the process; casting glare after glare back at the panel. And the “half” person is Rick Santorum, who is fighting just to get air time and is maximizing his chances to attack the poll leaders.
(And at one point after the first hour, there sounds like a female protester in the audience is shouting something, but it is so far back in the distance it’s hard to tell what is being shouted.)
Update: I did leave Ron Paul off the list since he was being his typical confrontational self. However, in the second hour, he has taken on most of the candidates, and a five-minute feud between and Santorum brought Santorum the TV time he was hoping for. If the first two debates were like this, I’m sad I missed them.
Update 2: The fireworks are over (and so are the preseason football games I missed because of this), so while Paul and Santorum stand on the stage talking to each other, let me make my first impressions on who “won” tonight:
1 – Mitt Romney – Romney came across as the “most Presidential” on the stage, even though most of his responses aren’t memorable. He did better addressing his record as Governor of Massachusetts, though he still had to dance around the actions that the more-conservative groups might view as liberal.
2 – Newt Gingrich – Mixing history with passion (something he has trouble showing), Newt came across with the most (quantity) clear plans that need to be enacted when he first takes office – if not before then. He reminded the viewers that there are 15 months until the election, but a lot of the problems facing the nation cannot wait that long to be addressed.
3 – Ron Paul – His experience as a third-time Presidential candidate continues to shine through, taking not only the questions directed towards him in stride, but also quickly responding to comments made by his challengers. The “battle” with Santorum gave him a boost in credibility, which places him higher in this list.
4 – Michele Bachmann – While she was weaker on substance (and in my view wrong on the debt ceiling debate), she was the clear winner in the head-to-head exchanges with Pawlenty.
(tie) 5 – Rich Santorum – It’s a toss-up between Santorum and Cain at this point, but I credit Santorum with being more “in charge” on stage when it came to taking on his competition.
(tie) 5 – Herman Cain – Cain continues to remind the viewers that he is not a politician but an accomplished businessman, something that works in his favor with much of the discussion tonight focused around the economy. He stayed above much of the fray on the stage, earning him more respect. This is why I think he and Santorum tied for fifth place on this list.
7 – John Huntsman – Huntsman continues to fight to remind viewers that he is in the race. In fact, it was easy to forget he was on the stage because he was not a part of any heated exchanges with his fellow candidates, and the panel didn’t seem to spend as much time with him. He made good points about his international and governing experiences, though he still struggles to connect his record with the ideals of the viewers.
8 – Tim Pawlenty – Unfortunately for Pawlenty, his battle with Bachmann hurt him tonight. While he was finally showing his teeth in an attempt to soften his “Mr. Nice Guy” reputation, his spat with Bachmann made her appear as a victim, which earns her sympathetic support. He might have been right (on the issues), but he was wrong (in his deliverance).