My immediate reactions last night are over at the Plum Line. Short version? I thought Perry did not do well, but I'm not convinced that anything important happened at all.
That said, I do have a bunch of quick hits to add...
* Is Rick Perry the easiest candidate to bait ever? I lost track, but I'm sure he attacked Ron Paul (candidates are usually advised to attack up, not down) and Karl Rove (candidates are certainly not advised to carry on feuds with operatives). That's certainly been his style in Texas, to the extent I've paid attention. If you're Romney now, or Obama later if Perry is the nominee, you have to figure that you should be sending out a steady stream of yutzes to deliver noisy hits on him, just to see if you can keep him distracted. It doesn't seem at all similar (to me at least) to Sarah Palin's thin skin problem; it's as if Perry only has one gear, and that's what he's gonna use.
* Speaking of which: if I were advising Romney, I'd be giving some serious thought to challenging Perry to a one-on-one debate very soon. My guess is that Perry will wind up doing fine in debates by the time we're close to Iowa, but he sure doesn't appear ready yet. I think there's a non-zero chance that if Perry said yes it could lead to a total fiasco for him, while if he turns down the challenge that has to deflate some of his swagger a bit, no? Romney, of course, just has to make sure the batteries are fully charged...
* Can I do a little bragging? Ah, probably too soon.
* Andrew Sullivan, who thought as I did that Perry did poorly, thinks (natch) that it "gives Palin an opening." I'll say one thing: whether it's Palin or Jeb or Thune or Barbour or Daniels or Huck, it's hard to believe that any of the sort-ofs (past and present) looked at the debate and couldn't picture themselves winning solidly. As regular readers know, I like thinking about the incentives that politicians see but don't try to get inside their heads beyond that...all I'd say is that if Palin is on the fence between becoming an all-in candidate or not, I'm pretty confident that the debate pushes her towards yes.
* You can see why Republicans think that Paul Ryan is a serious substance guy. Romney knows his stuff, and I suppose Ron Paul knows whatever it is that Ron Paul knows, but the other six were just a jumbled mass of garbage rhetoric. Of course, you can be a pretty good politician and even perhaps a decent president without actually being particularly expert on substance, and it's always possible they know more than they let on, but yikes it was unimpressive on that score.
* I'd really, really like to see Rick Perry have to seriously defend his "Ponzi scheme" slur.
* And some links: to a veteran Mitt-watcher, the great David S. Bernstein; Jonathan Chait saw it completely differently than I did; and an interesting analysis from Nate Silver.