The CNN GOP Debate in New Hampshire tonight was a study in how not to put on a debate. The way the debate was structured was very disjointed, with questions bouncing all over the place, and only a few candidates getting to respond to any one question. That makes it very difficult to differentiate between the candidates. CNN’s John King, from the moment he asked a question, was often muttering in the background to try and get the candidate to stop talking! It was incredibly annoying. I don’t think King even realized he was doing it.
The disjointed way the questions were asked makes it hard to grade the candidates. But I’ll take a stab at it based on the overall impression I got from each of them.
Once again, I think Herman Cain did very well. His answers were very direct and easy to follow. He came across as someone who knows how to deal with problems, and he did not back down when put on the spot about wanting to make sure any Muslim who would be part of his administration would be committed first and foremost to the U.S. Constitution and not to Sharia Law.
Mitt Romney also was very good, seeming very comfortable on the stage and doing a good job with the questions he answered. He benefited from not being attacked on RomneyCare by any of the other candidates.He came across as Presidential, and was strong in saying that any of the GOP candidates would do a better job as President than Barack Obama.
Michele Bachmann did a good job tonight too. It was interesting she effectively announced her candidacy during the debate, and her answers to questions were very strong, showing a real command of the issues. Her answer on the Right to Life was outstanding.
Ron Paul was good tonight, really scoring with his response to being asked what Obama has done right! His answers were very crisp and he came across as credible in tonight’s debate – with the exception of his usual response on the U.S. Military. Ron Paul would bring all U.S. Troops home as quickly as possible – from Afghanistan and everywhere else. He is an isolationist, and that approach to the world simply will not work.
I felt like Newt Gingrich did a respectable job tonight. He obviously knows a great deal about the issues, but he is not always very good at conveying that in a way that is easy for people to grasp. He is still having a hard time explaining his criticism of Paul Ryan’s plan when he appeared on Meet the Press.
Rick Santorum never seemed comfortable tonight. Though I agreed with most of his positions, I just don’t think he came across with any warmth or likability. It just was not a good evening for him.
I felt that Tim Pawlenty really did not do well tonight. His refusal to own his “ObamneyCare” comment from the weekend was a mistake. He simply would not use the word! It made him come across as weak. Romney stood there smiling as he twisted in the wind trying to avoid saying to Romney’s face what he said behind his back. For a candidate who needs to show strength, that was the last thing he needed to do.
In general, no one was either clearly superior tonight or a dismal failure. The thing that stood out to me the most is how much better the Fox News debate in South Carolina was as compared to how CNN conducted this debate.
How would you rate the candidates from tonight’s debate?
NOTE: Watch the Complete Video of the Debate.