- The biggest surprise to me is that I liked Jon Huntsman. He has no chance, of course, but in some ways he's a better Romney than Romney. I would hope that if one of his adversaries does become president, Huntsman would have a role in the next administration.
- Late in the debate, Michele Bachmann had a scrum with Newt Gingrich and after Newt brushed her aside, she asserted that she was a serious candidate. Bottom line: if you have to make that assertion, you aren't a serious candidate.
- Rick Santorum is weird. Weird guys don't get elected president.
- The Fox News folks gave Ron Paul the rope and, not surprisingly, he hanged himself. I understand what he's saying about people acting in their own interests, but the Iranian regime has been fighting a low-grade war against the United States since 1979. The Shah has been gone for over 30 years, so you have to question what motivates the regime. The Soviets wanted to rule the world, but Khrushchev, Brezhnev and the rest were, at bottom, rational actors. I'm not convinced the mullahs are. Beyond that, Paul comes across as a cranky old dude. Cranky old dudes don't get elected president, either. I understand he was very good in the first half of the debate, but in the part I saw he was awful.
- Rick Perry seems to have righted himself, but I think his moment has passed. His answer about the 10th Amendment was excellent, though.
- Mitt Romney looks the part, and he might do better in the general election than he will in the primary. The problem is that he has to get through the primary. He has to spend a lot of time explaining why he has changed his positions over the years and he's had a lot of positions. It's hard to play offense when you're constantly on defense.
- Newt Gingrich is really, really good at soundbites. He's brimming with ideas. He'd be a great dinner guest. I just don't see him as president, though. We're going to need someone with a plan and a consistent vision, and the discipline to stay after it. Newt can't help himself with the spitballing. Unless he had an extraordinarily good cabinet and a chief of staff who could keep him on task and on topic, he'd be a disaster.
Bottom line? I'm still not convinced that any of these individuals is really ready to be president. Still, one of them has to be, because the Obama administration is a train wreck. Once we get through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the field will be winnowed and it's possible that one of the candidates will look better.