Mitt Romney prevailed in yet another GOP debate. He was the home team candidate on his home turf: the economy and jobs. He’s comfortable on the stage and is at least a full notch above the other candidates.
Herman Cain easily batted down an early question about the sexual harassment allegations made against him. It helped that the audience booed the questioner and Romney took a pass on challenging him. Unless the allegations get worse, it’s unlikely that any of his rivals will go near the issue in the near term.
Cain also scored well with his message of tax simplification. He’s getting better at explaining his 9-9-9 plan — however flawed it may be — and his message resonates well.
Newt Gingrich was also very solid. He’s running against the media and his combativeness with the moderators was very appealing to Republican voters. If Romney doesn’t begin to attract more support within his party, Gingrich could be a surprise winner in one or more of the early primary states. He’s definitely moved into the top tier of this relatively weak field.
Rick Perry did nothing more than recite slogans — which he had trouble memorizing — but was basically absent from the discussion. It’s hard to believe but it was his worst debate yet.
Ron Paul was the most ideologically consistent candidate but his ideas are way out of the mainstream even within today’s Republican party. Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman simply take time away from the other candidates.