Although many pundits tout Romney as the winner in the Iowa debate, I prefer to rate the contenders by how they improved their positions in relationship to the others in the field. I saw the debate much like a NASCAR mid-race pit stop.
Big winner out of the pits:
Newt Gingrich - Speaker Gingrich demonstrated a superior command of facts and knowledge of history, along with the ability to articulate his stance on issues. His "take no prisoners" chastising of Chris Wallace was classic. He has the horsepower if he can keep it on the track.
Herman Cain – Mr. Cain entered the debate pegged as the also ran with a sputtering engine due to missteps and poorly phrased responses during recent interviews. While many expected him to falter again, Cain had done his homework, and came race prepared with a surety of purpose.
Following by a whisker:
Michele Bachmann – Representative Bachmann continued to gain on presumptive leader, Romney, with her poise under attack. While seeming imperturbable in her response to Byron York’s misogynistic question about her marriage, she showed she was not afraid to mix it up in the corners when she put Pawlenty into the retaining wall.
Maintaining their positions:
Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum exited unscathed, with his conservative credentials intact and still in the trophy hunt.
Jon Huntsman – Governor Huntsman gave no indication he was ever serious about his run. He entered in last place, and seemed content with cruising along as if he were going for a Sunday drive.
Mitt Romney – Well, falling back may be a bit strong. Governor Romney looked and sounded Presidential. He did himself no harm. He came in as the overall points leader and left as the points leader. However, he did lose ground to the hard charging Bachmann.
Dropping way back:
Ron Paul – Representative Paul blew a tire with his assertions that Iran having nuclear weapons would be no threat, and they had the “right” because other nations possessed them. He has no chance, but his spin-outs keep the race interesting.
Behind the wall:
Tim Pawlenty – Governor Pawlenty tried desperately to make a move, but playing bumper tag with Bachmann and Romney proved a poor strategy.
On the infield grass picking flowers:
Gary Johnson – A non-qualifier mentioned only because he is still an officially announced candidate.
Dennis P. O'Neil