Mitt Romney was the clear winner last night as the Republican presidential candidates took the stage in New Hampshire for their first Presidential debate. The former Massachusetts governor appeared relaxed, confident and very Presidential as he fielded a variety of questions from CNN moderator John King. He was particularly effective in defending his position on “Obamacare” explaining the differences between the President’s health care plan and the plan he legislated in Massachusetts. Romney had an easy ride as his fellow candidates chose to attack the President and allow the Republican frontrunner to go unchallenged.
Romney’s strong performance stood in sharp contrast to the weak effort offered by his chief rival, Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty refused to look at Romney much less challenge him. King went at Pawlenty several times trying to get him to address his “Obamnecare” comments on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Time and time again Pawlenty refused to take King’s challenge choosing to avoid the confrontation.
The surprise of the night was Michelle Bachman. Bachman gave a surprisingly charismatic effort. Gone were the crazy talk and the wild threats to motivate congress with assault rifles. Bachman was focused and likeable; and her performance only served to further highlight Pawlenty’s poor performance.
We were disappointed that none of the candidates offered anything new. The tried and true Republican talking points of lower taxes and less regulation were repeated over and over again. But while they were more than willing to criticize the President’s record on the economy and unemployment they offered no specifics on how they would create jobs and fix the country’s problems.
We are reminded that this is but the first debate in a very long campaign. There are seventeen grueling months to go. Romney was the clear winner last night. If the other Republican candidates continue to shy away from attacking Romney’s flip flopping record they might just as well hand him the nomination right now.