I’m exhausted…and I wasn’t even on stage. All I wanted to do when I came to Las Vegas was go see a show and pay $34.99 for a buffet dinner. Instead I got a ringside seat to fight night in Vegas.
Who were the winners and losers among the Republican candidates on stage at The Venetian hotel? The Brody File provides analysis points below.
1. Herman Cain knew he’d be attacked on the 999 Plan but quite frankly it could have been worse. The candidates got their shots in but Cain was able, for the most part, to deflect and move with a smile.
Most importantly, he didn’t get rattled. The best news for Herman Cain was that Mitt Romney got grilled by many of the other candidates, which took the heat and pressure off Cain. Overall solid. Prediction: His poll numbers will continue to rise.
2. Mitt Romney got knocked around pretty good and for the first time in this debate cycle he looked rattled. He recovered in spots but he had to deal with so much incoming fire that he left with a few chinks in the armor.
He also may have committed a big error when he admitted that when he found out there were illegal workers employed by a lawn company Romney was using. He said that, “went to the company and we said, 'look, you can't have any illegals working on our property. I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals.'”
So wait a minute? He went to the company because he was running for office? What if he wasn’t running for office, then he wouldn’t have done that? Romney’s critics are gonna have a field day with that.
3. Rick Perry is back. His critics sarcastically said he needed to get a good night’s sleep before the debate. He got a solid eight hours and probably downed a couple five-hour energy drinks as well. He came out firing and focused.
Ever since he got in the race I said that it was his race to lose and, indeed, he’s had a rough stretch. But he was on top of his game tonight. The challenge for Perry is for him to concentrate and articulate his message consistently over the next three months. If he can do that, he can win the nomination.
4. Michele Bachmann had a strong night. Quite frankly, this was her best debate performance since New Hampshire. She rose above all the squabbling and her explanation of tax policy was on point and understandable.
Out of all the candidates on stage, she seemed to be the most optimistic of the bunch. She will need to work on the art of explaining her policy positions in 30 seconds or less so the country can begin to grab a hold of them in an easier fashion. Something catchy would do. Cain's 999 is taken. She wouldn’t use it anyway!
5. Newt Gingrich comes to these debates as the sane professor who is always keeping everyone in place. He did step out tonight and attack Romney on healthcare, which he’s going to need to do more consistently on the trail if he wants to move up. The guy is so smart it’s scary. Could make for a very nice VP pick if the POTUS run doesn’t work out.
6. Rick Santorum really took it to Romney on healthcare. I was expecting this earlier in the debate season from Santorum but it finally happened tonight. We’ll see if he can make some hay out of that. Santorum is always making sure he’s talking about faith and family and that message is helping him gain traction in Iowa.
7. Ron Paul seemed to be pushed to the background tonight. The gentlemanly Dr. Paul is not the type of guy who’s going to go at it in a rough and tumble debate with the other candidates, so this fight night didn’t suit his style. Thus it was hard for him to be heard over all the shouting.