Nobody really won, but I would venture to say that Pawlenty, Santorum, Huntsman are history
Though a commendably and staunchly social conservative, Santorum was overly testy, and that didn't sit well with me. Exhibited a lack of poise. The grueling pace of an energetic campaign had clearly taken its toll. Lacks the gravitas needed to secure nomination. He's out. (Hope he runs for the Senate, or the House where his social conservatism can help shape legislation.)
Huntsman, surely a successful governmor, businessman and diplomat, was clearly shaking and quaking. Didn't inspire confidence at all. He's out. (More suitable for another ambassadorship perhaps?)
Pawlenty mishandled his defense against Bachman's barbs and didn't do himself any favors in the testy exchange with her. Lots of executive experience, but I'm afraid he's out. (Would like to see him as Secretary of Interior.)
A tad over the top, Bachman didn't do herself any favors either. She could have studiously pointed out Pawlenty's misguided policies as governor, e.g. Cap & Trade, without resorting to character assassination by describing Pawlenty's record as Obamaesque. That was just too much. She's clearly tough, fearless, but I still question whether her lack of executive experience is an insurmountable deficiency. Eventually, my guess is that she'll be out as well. (She would do well to remain in the House or run for the Senate.)
As always, I was impressed by Gingrich's feistiness and self-confidence, his ability to quickly think on his feet and his obvious mastery of subject matter. Detracting, however, were the flashes of petulence and impatience which do nothing to enhance his amiability. While he's not yet down and out, he needs to work on a more balanced "presidential" delivery. That said, he's still my favorite, though I remain troubled by his "establishment" predilection. (If not the nominee, would like to see him as HHS Secretary or Domestic Affairs Advisor to the President.) He's very bright and I wouldn't want us to lose that cornucopia of competence and intellect.
Lost for me in the mix was Ron Paul whose foreign policy outlook remains impractical to most and, by in large, unconvincing to many of the rest. That said, his mastery of economics and advocacy of small government remain his towering strengths. Arguably, on that score he was the best on the stage. However, his 18th century foreign policy stances are, I believe, his Achilles heel which will eventually eliminate him from the running. He's out. (I would hope he'd eschew retirement and accept appointment as Secretary of Treasury. He would be stellar and transformational in that role.)
Cain exudes authenticity, and possesses that common touch and first-hand business experience. Though an outsider, clearly a plus for me, I just don't believe he's sufficiently polished and experienced, and for that reason I would be somewhat concerned about his ability to effectively deal with foreign leaders, much less our carnivorous elitist press. (Would like to see him as Secretary of Commerce--if that superfluous bureaucracy is still around for any length of time after 2013.)
And then there's Romney. I see lots of window dressing, but I'm still unconvinced he's anything but a RINO. But, then, except for Paul, all the candidates are as well to varying degrees. I doubt his genuineness and commitment to small government. My guress is that he will not get the nomination, but I think he'll take his candidacy to the wire. (He should be in the next administration.)
So, I'm left with a feisty Newt Gingrich, the best and the brightest from my viewpoint, a carefully choreographed Romney and a thoroughly amiable but inexperienced Bachman.
Of the three, only Gingrich can effortlessly cut Obama down to size in any debate. But, there's the Gingrich amiability factor which militates against him. And on that score, Gingrich has much work to do to endear himself to the electorate, thus negating Obama's seductive charisma, the most potent weapon remaining in his dwindling arsenal.
In any event, that's my humble take on last night's...show.