About Last Night

October 19, 2011 6:29 a.m.

Let me share a few thoughts about last night’s debate. I hinted at this last night. But I thought Rick Perry had a better night than most people thought, though opinion seems to have somewhat shifted around to that thought by this morning. Yes, at some level, Romney continued stomping on Perry — even putting his hand on the shorter Perry’s shoulder (lot of alpha male stuff there). And Perry would have had to literally fall asleep on stage to miss the incredibly low expectations people have of him. But he did go after Romney in a big way and didn’t have any of those brain freeze ‘Where Am I?’ moments that have become his unwelcome trademark on the national stage.One thing that was misleading, I think, were the boos for Perry (and also Rick Santorum) from the audience. This was a very pro-Mitt audience. And they came to Mitt’s defense when Perry went at him. But Perry definitely got under Mitt’s skin, which seems unquestionably to have been his aim. He may not have looked great. But he generated a lot of angry — not really dominating the moment — video of Mitt, which will get replayed over and over, possibly to Mitt’s detriment. (Watch)

Mitt also made this revealing comment about knowing he had to get illegal immigrant workers off his property because “for pete’s sake” he was “running for office.” (Watch)Admittedly, relatively little has been made of it so far. But I think those comments have a long shelf life.

With Cain, well, what can you say? He came in as a novelty candidate. So it’s really not clear to me that anything changed. It was hard not to have some level of sympathy for the other candidates as they pressed Cain on…well, hey 999 is a tax hike for almost everyone. And Cain responds, “That’s just an Orange.” Herman, it’s a Vat Tax. Cain: “I’m an Apple.” I mean, where do you go with that?

The whole debate was kind of a mess, though ‘good’ in media and maybe revelatory terms. But the big story is we’re down to two high-funded candidates really going at it. Perry had a good night. And Romney took some hits. The question is whether Perry is now so deep in a hole that any of it really matters. And the hole is real deep.

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