No big headline, just some various notes on the big GOP debate last night...
1. Yeah, I'm still very much a Michele Bachmann skeptic. Yes, she got good reviews last night. Also, Herman Cain got good reviews after the last debate, and Donald Trump had momentum before that. She's less implausible than those two, but next time she'll have to do more to impress, and we'll see where it takes her. By the way, she sounds much more Generic House Republican to my ears than anything else; I don't know that that's a bad thing, but I don't get why it's the same space as Palin. So for example I do expect Bachmann to appear to be familiar with the issues...that's not her potential problem.
2. The Pawlenty flop -- or the perception of a Pawlenty flop, which is the same thing -- is one of those things that'll almost certainly not matter at all going forward (unless that's the straw that brings in Rick Perry, but I'm sort of guessing that Perry's decision -- whatever it is -- was made long ago).
3. Experience helps. Romney's been through this before; the others (well, except for Ron Paul) haven't. Doesn't mean that Romney's liabilities have disappeared, or even diminished in the slightest.
4. I agree with Ed Kilgore that these folks are in full-on pander mode to conservative movement rhetoric on domestic policy. My strong sense is that they've bought in to the rhetoric far more than to the actual policies, but that's a constraint, too. The interesting thing as the year goes on will be whether and where the crowd that really wants to run on the policies (Bachmann, Cain, Santorum) will find ways to press the group that wants to run on the rhetoric (Pawlenty, Romney, and probably Perry). For example: what will Romney say to a proposal to shut down the Department of Education? The EPA? Pick an agency.
5.Uh -- is this NYT thing the worst fact-check column ever? There are virtually no facts being checked in the entire piece. Hint: if Romney says he'll "repeal Obamacare," pointing out that his MA plan was similar is not, actually, a correction on a matter of fact.
6. And you know what? I'm perfectly fine with John King's goofy "Coke or Pepsi" questions. This is debate #2, and we still have seven or eight months to go to Iowa, and if it's a competitive race we could easily have another half-dozen of these things after Iowa. A few seconds of frivolity lightens things up. I'm not as thrilled with some of the questioning, but no one has really ever figured out how to handle these early very large fields...the only criticism I fully sign on to is that interrupting things to read questions from Facebook which you then never actually ask seems totally pointless to me. I'm not saying the questions were great, but just that the goofball stuff seems pretty harmless to me, but apparently not to any of the twitter feeds I was looking at. Oh, and I almost forget -- King seemed to totally botch whatever he was going for in the Palin vs. Biden question, and asking what they learned during the debate was undeniably stupid and useless. But the quickies, which were basically: pretend to be a real person for a few seconds? No harm in that.
I think that's it. Just to drill it in again: Barack Obama flopped repeatedly in the early debates in 2008; Herman Cain had people all excited because he supposedly dominated the first GOP debate this time around. Debates can matter in primary elections, but there are going to be lots of them, and people forget them far quicker than they expect.