Summary: This was a really difficult debate to watch, and while some would say the questions asked were not softballs, the moderators were throwing gotchas, something which Newt Gingrich took issue with.
Chris Wallace: Tonight’s villain in the moderator stakes was Wallace, and at times it was hard to hard to tell if Chris used the Huffington Post for show prep, or was conducting extra vetting of the candidates for them.
Gotcha Moments: Forcing Bachmann to confront female submissiveness, Romney on moving companies off-shore, Santourm on abortion, Cain on Islam. While the moderators were going after these moments, they also ignored core elements the public wanted to hear candidates speak on. They pushed social issues like illegal immigration, or foreign policy that ‘ate the clock’ from the Debt Ceiling discussions, dealing with the economy, and job creation. Overall it made this debate hard to sit through.
Infighting: While New Hampshire was the debate where Republicans presented a united front, and only attacked Obama on his policy, Iowa was the night that belonged to infighting. The gloves were off for Bachmann vs. Pawlenty, Ron Paul vs. Rick Santorum, and even Pawlenty was given a second shot at attacking Romney over Romneycare/Obamacare.
Winners: There was no real winner overall, however the third segment belonged all to Ron Paul, normally the man who is left out of the GOP debates. It gave the chance for the Ron Paul stacked Ames University crowd to cheer on their hero.
Also, Gingrich didn’t seem like yesterday’s man and at moments seemed to shine above the night’s pettiness.
Rick Perry, while he wasn’t there, the next debate now sets the expectation that Perry’s entry will force the field of candidates to step up.
Overall the night belonged to Obama, who avoided the lumps the GOP field were looking to plant upon him.
Losers: Let me start with Bachmann, she has now made herself out to be very petty during her skirmish with Pawlenty, and could have allowed Tim to be the invisible man. Instead she turned Pawlenty into a talking point.
While on Pawlenty, while having the most to lose, he also proved ‘if you’re going to lose, lose big’. Even his ‘I’m more conservative than you’ match up with Santorum towards the end didn’t do him any favors. Pawlenty’s antics also showed that if you attack others, you are allowed rebuttals which means more talk time.
While facing the toughest questions, and a barrage of ‘Gotchas’, Romney’s only achievement tonight was his ability in providing extra material for his critics in producing more Anti-Romney You Tube videos. While some may view Romney as coming better off tonight than others, it should be known that Romney isn’t aiming to win the Hawkeyed State. Based on his experience in Iowa from 2008, Romney has wisely focused more time on New Hampshire, and in doing so avoids being drawn into the Iowa Gubernatorial Race masquerading as a Primary.
Jon Huntsman, another man ruined by several Gotcha moments, mostly his ambassadorial appointment to China under the Obama Administration, and his answer on marriage. Perhaps Huntsman could stand a better chance if he instead decided to challenge Orrin Hatch the next time he faces re-election.
Herman Cain was another fellow that failed to get on-air time, being exempt from any dust-ups also meant fewer moments to speak, or provide rebuttals given to the attackers.
As for Thad McCotter, what happened there?