Mitt Romney ran away with this debate. He was steady, sunny and unflappable.
The frontrunner Rick Perry, by contrast, started out sloppy and was, by the end of the evening, an incoherent mess — getting schooled by the likes of Sen. Rick Santorum on foreign policy and one-upped by debate newbie Gov. Gary Johnson's joke about dog feces.
But it's for failed attempt to nail Romney on flip flopping that Perry leads off our recap of the three most painful moments of the debate:
1) Perry channels George W. Bush
A line of attack that should've been as easy for the Texas governor as tying his shoes ... quickly tied Perry in knots. (The hard-to-watch stuff begins at the 1:30 mark.)
Seriously, did Perry take a hit of horse tranquilizer at the pee break?
Let's review the transcript. This is "Fool Me Once" bad:
PERRY: I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney who's on the side ... against the second amendment before he was for ... the second amendment. Was it was before he was before these social programs, um, from the standpoint he was for, uh, standing up for Roe versus Wade before he was against vers... uh, Roe versus Wade, uh, he was for Race to the Top. Uh... he's ... for Obamacare and now he's against it. We'll wait until tomorrow and, and, and see which Mitt Romney we're really talkin' to tonight.
2) GOP crowd boos gay soldier
Not to be outdone by previous debate crowds that applauded the death penalty and cheered letting the uninsured die, last night's audience booed an active-duty member of the Army serving in Iraq for being gay.
This is really one of the most shameful moments of live television I've ever seen. Republicans booing an American soldier in a war zone. And Rick Santorum — who must have been chafed to appear at a debate sponsored by Google — didn't bat an eye. He denounced gays being able to serve openly as a "special privilege" and promised that, were he commander in chief, he'd shove the military's homosexual servicemembers back into the closet.
3) Michele Bachmann calls for zero taxes:
The strangest moment of a strange night — in which GOP candidates variously called for the abolition of the EPA, the Department of Education, and government-to-government foreign aid — came when Michele Bachmann claimed that the government's proper cut of any dollar you earn as an American is ... zero.
BACHMANN: You earned every dollar, you should get to keep every dollar that you earn. That's your money, that's not the government's money. That's the whole point.