Michael Barone and Chris Cillizza are two of the fairest observers of politics at work in the media, and both scored last night’s debate favorably for Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.
Barone’s assessment of Romney: “Romney gave good solid answers on several other questions, well tailored to the format demanding brief answers, on various issues. Notable among them was his defense of his opposition to the GM and Chrysler bailout, where he stood up for the rule of law and against turning over ownership shares to the United Auto Workers. On the debt ceiling, he launched a well justified attack on Barack Obama for not leading.”
Cillizza’s take: “Romney was serious and well informed – in a word: presidential. His debate experience from 2008 clearly paid off as he stayed focused on President Obama and the economy to the exclusion of almost everything else. Romney also benefited from the fact that none of his rivals seemed to have the stomach to attack him directly. And, health care was – at best – a tangential topic. All in all a very good night for Romney.”
Both analysts gently knock Tim Pawlenty for not mixing it up hard with Romney early on, but far better for the former Minnesota governor to be measured and a touch understated in the first of many debates than too hot and overwrought. T-Paw is the first choice of many and the back-up of almost everyone else. He doesn’t have to score a lot of runs in the first inning.
As both Sean Hannity and I commented during the Great American Panel last night, the GOP field is very strong and very prepared for a long, detailed and devastating critique of a failed president. Each person on the stage last night is ready to advance that conversation in the months ahead which is good news for the party and the country. The debate rules helped shield the president from the full explication of his disastrous policies that is necessary and deserved, but the candidates will have plenty more opportunities to lay out the full case against a second term of woeful leadership and incoherent policies. All in all, a great start to campaign 2012.