Saturday night’s GOP debate was expected to be a Mitt bashfest, but his opponents failed to score any big points. Daily Beast contributors break down the candidates’ performances. Plus, join The Daily Beast for a live chat during Sunday morning's debate at 9 a.m. ET.
Romney and Santorum Are Vile
By Andrew Sullivan
Romney sailed through this one, although he is digging into positions and rhetoric that really seem extreme for the center. Maybe I'm biased, but I thought Paul was a stand-out, because he didn't seem to be pandering. His fight with Gingrich over the draft was, to my ears, devastating.
Romney Stays Above the Fray
By Howard Kurtz
Republican rivals tried to put venture capitalism—and its poster boy Mitt Romney—on trial at the ABC debate, amplifying charges by the Democrats that the former governor was a serial job killer.
But the attempt petered out. The night’s big loser, in fact, was Rick Santorum, who didn’t have a single memorable moment and forfeited the chance to build on his virtual tie in Iowa before a national audience. For all the talk of Angry Newt, meanwhile, he barely took a shot at Romney, though he did let Ron Paul get under his skin.
With three days to go before the New Hampshire primary, the buzz in the cavernous pressroom at Manchester’s Saint Anselm College was that this is a lackluster primary, meaning Romney is likely to win in a walk.
By Peter Beinart
In foreign policy, grand strategy is the art of reconciling means and ends. Can someone please tell the leading Republican candidates for president?
After Sept. 11, when George W. Bush foolishly thought that America’s means were virtually infinite, he defined our ends in the war on terror as not only defeating al Qaeda but eradicating the Taliban and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Now that it is painfully clear how limited America’s means actually are—with the country deep in debt and Americans bone-weary of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—you might think the Republican candidates would consider scaling back the war on terror’s scope, especially with al Qaeda on its knees.
In fact, it’s the opposite.
Ron Paul’s Satisfying Smackdown
By Michelle Goldberg
Saturday night’s debate was worse than most—it was dull, unilluminating, and changed the dynamic of the race not at all. We learned that Rick Perry wants to reinvade Iraq. Mitt Romney either demonstrated or feigned ignorance of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision outlawing state bans on contraception that served as a precedent for Roe v. Wade. And Rick Santorum, who has a page on his website titled “Santorum Hopes to Rebuild Middle Class,” claimed that using the term “middle class” is a sort of divisive class warfare.
The one bright spot of the evening was Ron Paul.
The Competition Folds
By Paul Begala
There's no doubt who lost the Saturday night milquetoast: me. I woulda, coulda, shoulda watched the New Orleans Saints pound the Detroit Lions. But, political junkie that I am, I decided to tune in to the debate. Instead of NFL football, I was treated to an evening of powder-puff.
The candidates chasing Mitt Romney are the worst bunch of lame-o’s, liars, and Lilliputians I have ever seen. If it didn't infringe on NBC's copyright, ABC should have called the show "The Biggest Loser."
I Miss Herman Cain
By Michelle Cottle
This was the debate when the candidates were supposed to stop playing around—to take off the gloves and seriously challenge the heretofore largely unmolested frontrunner, Mitt Romney.
Instead, we were treated to tiresome exchanges such as George Stephanopoulos’s badgering Romney about whether states should be allowed to ban the sale of contraceptives (an exchange Romney owned by pointing out what a ridiculous hypothetical this was) and Diane Sawyer’s probing everyone on the issue of gay marriage.
By Rich Galen
If the national press corps was looking for a knife fight between Mitt Romney and the other five candidates on the stage, they were dreadfully disappointed. In spite of the best efforts of the ABC and WMUR moderators, it was mostly hands off Mitt but plenty of squabbling among the non-Romney candidates.
The most energetic confrontation was between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich over Paul’s having referred to Gingrich as a “chicken hawk” for never having served in the military. Gingrich said he was married and had a child. Paul countered that he was married and had two children but when he was called he served [as an Air Force flight surgeon.]