GOP Debate: Romney, Bachmann Win, Pawlenty Loses

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Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain attend the first GOP primary debate, June 13, 2011 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Darren McCollester/Getty Images

 

Quick take on the GOP debate:

Winners: Romney, who seemed relaxed and in command and did a good job of defusing (for now) the Romneycare issue; Bachmann, who – to almost universal astonishment – came off as smart and ... not insane.

Losers: Pawlenty had an opportunity to repeat, to Romney's face, the "Obamaney" care charge he'd leveled a day before. Inexplicably, he wimped out. Hard to see how he passes the 3 a.m.-call test now!

Eh: Rick Santorum (as ever) looked like he could use an ex-lax; Gingrich came off as world weary; Ron Paul, who in the past has seemed refreshingly contrarian but now comes off as a single-issue crank; Herman Cain, whose breakout performance in the last debate raised expectations, disappointed.

For more, here's a roundup of some of the the best coverage.

John Dickerson:

"Her one-liners about making Obama a one-term president and the repeal of health care will get repeated in Republican circles. She will benefit not necessarily because people think she will be president, but because they want her out there advocating for the ideas they support about limited government. "I fought behind closed doors," she said of her opposition to the unpopular TARP. "Sometimes that's what you have to do, you have to take principle over party." She presented herself tonight as a more capable and plausible spokeswoman for Tea Party activists than Herman Cain or Sarah Palin. Bachmann's only devastating moment came when she was asked her this-or-that question—Johnny Cash or Elvis—and she said both. All right-thinking Americans know, of course, that the answer is Johnny Cash." [Slate]

Michelle Goldberg:

"Here are things that Republicans suggested eliminating or privatizing in last night’s debate: FEMA, NASA, the EPA, the Federal Labor Relations Board, Medicaid and food stamps. Herman Cain promised not to appoint any Muslims who want to kill Americans to his cabinet. Michele Bachmann supports states rights on gay marriage, but also supports a constitutional amendment outlawing it. Newt Gingrich faults big government for the lamentable absence of manned stations on the moon. Rick Santorum wants to “a system of discipline” to “punish” gay soldiers, which suggests that his problem with pornographic Google results is not likely to abate. Tim Pawlenty views Iraq as “one of the shiniest examples of success in the Middle East. [The Daily Beast]

Steve Kornacki:

"Most of what he was saying [in defense of Romneycare] made little sense, but that's not the point. The point is that Romney delivered one smooth, superficially compelling healthcare talking point after another -- and every one of them went unchallenged by his opponents. This is significant, because his healthcare position doesn't actually need to be that coherent for him to win the nomination. The vehemence of the GOP's opposition to ObamaCare, after all, isn't really rooted in logic; it's rooted in blind, reflexive opposition to anything with Obama's fingerprints on it. In that sense, Romney's performance Monday night gave Republican elites something they can use if they want to promote his candidacy -- a way to tell rank-and-file GOP voters not to worry about everything they've heard about his Massachusetts law. All you need to know, the elites can tell the masses, is that what Romney did is different than what Obama did -- and that he hates ObamaCare just as much as you." [Salon]

Joan Walsh:

"The debate was particularly depressing not because of the candidates' hate-mongering on issues like gay marriage, civil rights for Muslim Americans and abortion. We expect that from Republicans now, and voters who care about those issues have a political alternative: most Democrats. It was Republicans' absolute illiteracy about the way the economy works that was frightening – that, and the fact that people worried about the economy won't find an utterly reassuring set of policies or programs from Democrats, since Obama has decided to endorse Corporate America's "deficit cutting is crucial to getting the economy moving again" [Salon]

Michael Tomasky:

"Tim Pawlenty was the night’s loser .... He seemed like somebody’s younger brother who was tagging along, and he just didn’t look like he fit. He hit a self-righteous stride talking about bombing Yemen—then you realized that all he was doing was saying that he’ll continue Obama’s policy! [The Daily Beast]

Walter Shapiro:

"The debate should have ended the brief Republican fascination with Herman Cain, who brings to the campaign his real-world experience as, yes, the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. While Cain can be an inspirational speaker in the right setting, a debate with serious policy questions invariably will display his not-ready-for-prime-time generalities. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum—whose militantly conservative views on abortion and gay rights do not stand out in this right-wing field—aseems destined to play the role of a why-is-he-here candidate cluttering up the debate stages while never saying anything interesting." [The New Republic]

Ezra Klein:

"Romney covered economic and domestic policy with far more ease than the other candidates on his stage. The tone was set early, when King asked Pawlenty to reprise his attack on "Obamneycare." Pawlenty, who looked almost physically ill at the thought of challenging Romney face-to-face, stammered his way through the answer and leaving Romney to uncork a pretty good line on the subject: "The President is going to eat his words," Romney warned, saying that if Obama really wanted to copy his reforms, the president should've given him a call and Romney could've explained in detail why Obama's law wouldn't work." [WP]

Josh Marshall:

"Romney seems like the only serious candidate on the stage. In a sense that's not surprising because he's almost the only serious candidate in the race. Santorum struck me as particularly scattered. The key though is Pawlenty. He's the only other really serious candidate in the race, at least on paper. But he struck me as weak -- and not just in his unwillingness to repeat his criticism of Romney to Romney's face. And that's a win for Romney, since again, no one else up there is a serious candidate for the nomination. And yet Romney's answer on health care reform simply didn't hold up -- a lot of sensible points that didn't at all address the fact that his bill is fundamentally the same as President Obama's. That's still the albatross around his neck. But what if there's no other credible candidate to oppose him?" [TPM]

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