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Reagan Debate Recap: Perry, Romney and six other candidates

Ah, presidential debates. They have little to do with demonstrating one’s fitness for the highest office in the land, and yet they are often weighed and measured with the highest of stakes.

Such it is for our generation, cultured to see winners and losers after a series of head to head play-offs, championships, and competitions between athletes. We’ve simply transferred those expectations over to the selection process for our chief executive.

Enough philosophizing, though, let’s look at last night. What were the substantive results on the race?

From my perspective (in an arm-chair far from the spin rooms), we are starting to see true colors. Further, with Rick Perry finally in the race and on the podium last night, the race feels full. We’re still missing Sarah Palin, but she’ll show up, if just with her bus as she “tours” America.

Yes, I do think there’s a good chance she’ll get in.

But back to the debate. Since your time is short, here’s the skinny on the “winners” and “losers.” Since his supporters will cry “foul” if he doesn’t get his due for winning the after debate polls, we’ll start with Ron Paul.

  • Ron “if I had a silver dime for every time the press ignores me” Paul: From moments of brilliance (attacking Perry with an ad for his support of Al Gore then going after him on HillaryCare in the debate) to sheer weirdness (gas for a “silver dime”), I both like what he says and shake my head. He’s kaleidoscopic.
  • Mitt “I have a 160-page plan to kick-start the economy” Romney: Coming into the debate as the strongest candidate but down in the polls due to Perry’s entrance to the race, he managed to come off articulate, graceful (especially when the rest of the candidates were piling it on to Perry), and wise (as when he took a Reagan-esc stance on Social Security). While not the clear winner, he remains on his pedestal as the man to beat (Obama in 2012).
  • Rick “We execute bad people” Perry: with expectations set high, Perry came out strong against Ponzi schemes–er, I mean Social Security–but weakened as the others pointed out his weaknesses. Fortunately, for him, it was not an “intellectual discussion,” a term he use dismissively twice, and he’s not Mormon, as Chris Matthews pointed out repeatedly. I couldn’t help but feel like he had all of George W.’s strength, but none of his charm or wit. A pretender.
  • Jon “I can beat Obama if we skip primaries” Huntsman: Trailing (everyone) Huntsman excelled at looking and sounding articulate, but also a bit petty. Huntsman repeatedly drew attention to Utah’s economic success under his term as Governor, but I couldn’t help but wonder why all the Utah State Legislators who served with him  and delivered those bills to his desk are now supporting Romney…
  • Newt “I’m running for Veep” Gingrich: To the press: don’t mess. Gingrich was articulate and reminded us all that he was a part of the Reagan revolution. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he’s shifting to VP candidacy land, though.
  • Herman “9%” Cain: He continues to come up with good one liners, but he’s not making ground.
  • Michelle “SNL” Bachmann. I know SNL was watching, just hoping she’d stay in long enough for them to cast her…in the meanwhile, she’s fading. Perry has stolen her based, Pawlenty was gone for her to fight with, and her performance was next to unremarkable.
  • Rick Santorum: Did you know his parents and grandparents were Italian immigrants? He won’t leave until they stop inviting him, but he’s on stage…for now.
Your take? Is this really already a two-horse race? Can Huntsman pull out a New Hampshire miracle and become relevant in 2012? Will Bachmann find a way to win more than just the Iowa straw poll? Should we care that Ron Paul gets ignored by the media while last place runner Huntsman is their darling?
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

The biggest loser of the night, as one colleague pointed out to me? Ronald

 Reagan. He’d be a RINO next to these guys, especially Perry and Bachmann (who at points sounded like a psychic trying to channel his spirit). He compromised, raised taxes, grew government to fight the “evil empire,” and, most importantly, inspired Americans to save the economy without the government’s help. Maybe it’s time the candidates stopped trying to be the Gipper and started trying to be themselves.

Also, to beat Obama and get the economy back on track.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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