A consensus is taking shape from last night's GOP debate, and Mitt Romney should be pleased. He won or at least held his own in the eyes of most (but certainly not all). Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post pronounces him the winner for his "slow and steady" performance after a somewhat "shaky" start. Rick Perry came out aggressive but "seemed to lose focus" in the second half, while "Romney showed his experience and steadied himself as the proceedings wore on—repeatedly giving answers that sounded reasonable and, dare we say it, presidential." As for Michele Bachmann, she was a "non-entity," which puts her into the "loser" camp," writes Cillizza.
It's similar to Andrew Sullivan's assessment at his Daily Beast blog, in which he says Romney "kicked ass," while Perry "proved himself an extreme, inarticulate, incurious W clone" whose "rhetoric was off-key," especially on Social Security. Both Sullivan and Cillizza praise Jon Huntsman's performance: He finally looked like he belonged out there. At the National Journal, Ron Fournier names Romney and Perry as the winners, but wonders about the price. "The testy exchanges allowed Perry to cast himself as a conservative truth-teller and Romney to bill himself as the most electable GOP candidate," he writes. "In doing so, both men exposed each others’ political vulnerabilities and risked alienating independent voters who are looking for more civility in politics." Jonathan Chait at the New Republic is in the minority camp, naming Perry as the sole winner. He "established his alpha male style, and that impression will matter more than any position or statement he’s made." (Read more Mitt Romney stories.)