Perry got the message. He had a strategy. More energy. Attack Romney. The problem is, he doesn’t have the skills to pull it off. Everything looked forced and unnatural. Perry looked like he came for a gang fight but forgot to bring his gang.
To pull off successful attacks in debates you have to execute with nuance and subtlety. It has to be artful. Perry just looked like he was throwing buckets of paint against the wall. And a lot of it splashed back. But it was better than appearing asleep with paintbrushes in his pockets, like he did in the last couple debates.
Romney was on defense in this debate. A lot. And some blood was drawn. And his hair was mussed. He had it coming from all directions. Gingrich and Santorum attacked on health care. Perry attacked on immigration. But once again, Romney parried fairly effortlessly. He stood his ground and refused to yield. Four years ago, he would have allowed himself to be interrupted. Tonight, he was a battering ram whenever anyone tried to interrupt him. He refused to yield. Which communicates strength. Which is what voters want to see.
Cain showed why he gained altitude in recent weeks. He’s affable. He’s assertive. He’s strong. But, he also showed why his balloon could start losing air. He gets points for putting out a bold plan, but he’s going to have get a better defense for his plan than just asserting that the critics are wrong and that people can check the facts at his website. And he’s got a real problem with trying to suggest that a federal sales tax on top of a state sales tax is comparing apples and oranges. Romney was right, the problem is the Cain plan is actually a fruit basket.
Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann all had moments, but didn’t change the equation. And Ron Paul was, once again, brilliant and senile.
So, how does tonight’s debate change the equation? Not much. Romney is still running strong, Cain is running hot, Perry is not out of the running, and the others are still in the running.