October 12, 2011

Who won the latest GOP debate? Cain.

You just messed with the wrong guy, punk!
The conventional wisdom is that Mitt Romney did well and won by virtue of not doing poorly.  The conventional wisdom is that Herman Cain gets honorable mention and certainly helped his own case.  The conventional wisdom is that Rick Perry had not done enough to reverse his polling slide and therefore was the loser. 

Let me take another angle.  

Mitt Romney certainly already has New Hampshire locked up, but did he really win?  Polls today (pre-debate results) are putting Cain ahead of Romney.  That's the first time Romney hasn't lead the polls.  His strategy of not tripping up and following a steady course may have to change.  When he goes on the offensive, he risks tripping up his own battle plan.  I don't believe the steady, make no waves approach was a win.  As a result of the latest debate, Cain's lead will probably widen a little bit as he becomes the credible not-Romney candidate.  So Romney didn't win by not losing.  In fact, he may have reached a tipping point.

The conventional wisdom on Perry seems to be correct.  While there was nothing particularly bad about Perry's performance, he needed to better than lackluster.  He didn't.  He can't debate.  If he can't debate, he can't win.  If he can't out debate Romney or Cain or Bachmann, how can he out-perform Obama head-to-head?  And he needs to do that in the general election campaign.  This might be the last time we see Perry above 15%, or maybe even in double digits.   

That leaves Herman Cain.  He didn't win any friends in New Hampshire but in this age of televised debates, the impacts are broader than where the debate was held.  Cain helped himself in Iowa and Nevada and South Carolina.  I think he won.  

That said, this was a battle not the war.  With New Hampshire - a likely Cain win - possibly moving it's primary to December 6th, there's a quick win being lined up for Romney.  That has the likely impact of leaving a long taste of Romney victory in voters' mouths before a chance for someone else to win happens.

As a footnote - Gingrich once again performed well, not that it's likely to matter.

Full Disclosure:  I'm trying to be dispassionate and I'm not a Cainiac - I just want the most conservative, electable candidate to win.  With Obama plummeting in the polls that no longer equates to Mitt Romney.  Yes, he can beat Obama, but he's not the most conservative candidate to be on that list.

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