. . . plus some replays of key moments and the Luntz focus group.
The focus group overwhelmingly thought Romney won, and a signficant number of group members claimed to have recently switched to Romney. The buzz words: competence and specificity. I would agree he displayed those qualities.
The stature of Newt—who continues to sound informed, smart, and confident—continues to grow.
Cain had a rather spectacular night: He got big points for being for abolishing the EPA. And he movingly explained why—under ObamaCare—he’d be dead right now. He needed the expensive variety of treatments his doctors recommended without delay to beat the odds and whip stage 4 cancer. He was poised and funny.
Huntsman was much better—sounding, at times, like a real statesman. He was sort of wrong but confident on foreign policy. He was actually quite good on economic policy. He’s less irrelevant now than he was last week.
Santorum, Johnson, and Paul had their moments. The addition of Johnson may be helping Paul by giving the hyper-libertarian, isolationist positions more air time. Santorum had a strikingly weird answer on “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but his big point that the military shouldn’t be governed by social engineering seem to have resonated. He made a mistake by not showing respect for the gay soldier. He did well in developing the theme that he and Gingrich are the responsible ones—the ones who know American values aren’t broken—on foreign policy. I have considerable sympathy for that view, adding that Romney basically agrees with them too.
Bachmann had her worst night—not one good answer and some odd ones. For now, she doesn’t seem to be a factor.
Perry took a big hit from the focus group for defending his position on giving in-state tuition to the children of illegals. I for one thought he was kind of courageous there. In general he stumbled under attack, and he was very weak on foreign policy. For America as a whole, he took a hit by giving an obviously false or evasive explanation for why Texas ranks just about last on Medicaid payments. He didn’t express pride in being a low-services state, if also (and this is a good thing) a state excellent in “creating” jobs, especially for recent immigrants. He did refine his vaccine answer in a more credibly pro-life way, and the Bachmann charge of being the tool of drug company lobbyists didn’t seem to stick this time. Nobody thought Perry did well; his stage presence and swagger weren’t up to his usual standard. Still, it was more a matter of Romney doing well than him doing badly.