I called it for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney early on, because former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (PA) seemed to stumble over his words multiple times in the course of just the first four minutes. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA) appeared to be back in form as the professor, having something to teach everyone. And Texas Congressman Ron Paul was quintessential Paul: rejecting any desire to have a military presence overseas or offer foreign aid, pushing the idea that the congressional system is what it is and people must fess up to their role in it, and portraying himself as the only one who really bucks anything meaningfully.
Feb. 22, 2012 - Mesa, Arizona, U.S. - Governor MITT ROMNEY waves to the crowd at the Arizona Republican Presidential Debate in the Mesa Arts Center. It is the last debate before the Michigan and Arizona Republican primaries on Feb. 28 and "Super Tuesday" on March 6. (Image: © Jack Kurtz/ZUMAPRESS.com)
In fact, in one telling episode at the end of the evening, moderator John King asked the candidates to state one word that they thought described themselves. Here are the responses, and you'll see how (and whether) they match up with my assessment above:
- Paul: Consistent
- Santorum: Courageous
- Romney: Resolute
- Gingrich: Cheerful
As Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers might say to that last one, "Really???"
Post-debate political pundits tended to agree (as do I) that Romney came out the best in a debate that vied for being one of the worst out of more than 20 (yes, more than 20). You can also get a good grasp of how things went by reviewing tweets with the hashtag #cnndebate.
Of most interest to me was the absence and actual aversion to discussing women in a positive way. Even when the candidates were asked directly about birth control, they made it all and only about religion and religious liberty. Even when they were asked about women in the military, they would defer to military leaders, except Santorum who said he'd only consult with them. Romney and Paul gave a nod to the dying in service women also do, and even Gingrich noted that it's just a fact that women are in there. But overall, very begrudging nods to women and women's contributions and rights to anything.
And overall, if you are Latino, gay, or anything that isn't directly in their conservative sweet spot, fahgeddaboutit. No mentions -- or no nice mentions, if anything at all.
Okay, I'm showing my editorial bent. Your turn -- what did you all think??
Pundit & Pundette: How do you think Romney would have voted on NCLB?
PunditMom: Rick Santorum Doesn't Want to be President
Chris Giedner @ Poliglot: Romney's Veiled Reference to Gay Adoption Was GOP Debate's Only LGBT Mention
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