Monday, January 16, 2012

Who Won the Republican Debate on January 16th?

Tonight, each of the candidates did well in the debate. Newt Gingrich, in particular, got a lot of applause--but so did his opponents. Mitt Romney stands to benefit the most from this, as he would like to see his competition continue to block each other. It's unlikely, for example, that Gingrich's main competitor for the Anti-Romney vote--Rick Santorum--will lose as a result of this debate. Even Rick Perry, who has fared poorly in the debates, did well. Tonight was probably Perry's strongest performance thus far. Since Perry will not win South Carolina, that only serves to take votes from Romney's competition.

In the opening round, the debate moderators went immediately to the issue of the attacks against Bain. Gingrich did not backpedal, but he came close. Instead of pressing Romney on Bain, Gingrich said that he had merely been "asking questions." Romney took the opportunity to put the Bain issue to rest (at least in this debate). That wiped out the main line of attack that had been made against Romney.

In general, the candidates did not really attack Romney. At one point, Santorum threw his weight around by challenging Romney--but it was on the issue of allowing felons to vote. Romney, who was taken by surprise at the question, was against allowing felons to vote, while Santorum was in favor. Santorum wanted to know why Romney didn't change the law in Massachusetts to prevent felons from voting. Santorum looked confident, but it was on a completely tangential matter.

Though many candidates got applause, the problem faced by Romney's competitors is that they needed to either destroy Romney or destroy Romney's competition and become the chief Anti-Romney. In this debate, they failed to do either.