The GOP presidential contenders had their first serious debate last night in NH. Here's my thoughts:
1) Herman Cain lost big time. He had a great showing in the debate a few weeks ago which boosted his national profile considerably. But with good performances comes higher expectations, and Herman Cain didn't deliver last night. He committed a gaffe in his comments about "being uncomfortable" having a Muslim in his cabinet. Overall, he came across sounding like a novice. His inexperience has begun to shine through and I believe that he has peaked in this race.
2)Ron Paul - Dr. Paul's libertarian leanings are to radical for the mainstream public. Every time he is asked a question, he pontificates libertarian talking points about how the government shouldn't be involved in anything in the first place. Do people realize how radical and drastic Rep. Paul's beliefs are? Do people realize how impossible it would be to implement any laws Rep. Paul proposes due to their extreme nature? The Senate and House would never go along with most of his proposals. Ron Paul has had a good run in presidential politics for the last few cycles, but I believe his support has peaked as well.
3) Gov. Romney - Both Time Magazine's Mark Halperin, Politico and National Review Online all stated that Romney was the clear winner of the debate. His opponents didn't attack him on any of his vulnerabilities. Plus, Romney stayed on message about the economy and appeared to have a commanding control of the issues.
The media had hoped last night's debate would be similar to a "steel cage death match" between Romney and Pawlenty, with Pawlenty relentlessly attacking Romney on health care and abortion. But I think it would have been a mistake for Pawlenty and the other rivals to go on the attack so soon. It's early in the campaign process and the candidates don't want to go negative this early.