The GOP presidential candidates faced off last night in a national security debate. Here are the winners and losers:BIG WINNER: Newt Gingrich: He had strong answers on Iran and the Patriot Act — and managed a strong defence of his position on illegal immigration.
On Amnesty, he provided an answer that appeals to moderates, and invoked Reagan to temper any qualms that the Tea Party and others may have. It will be an issue with some of the base, but it’s a way for Gingrich to pick up some of Romney’s moderate supporters.
Winner: Jon Huntsman: He had his best debate to date. He landed a big blow to Mitt Romney on Afghanistan, showing how much damage he can do if he is taken seriously in these debates.
Even: Mitt Romney: Yet again, he didn’t seal the deal. He had a rough time on the immigration question — going to the right of Gingrich, but trying to avoid his scenario of grandmothers being separated from their grandchildren. He also had trouble with Afghanistan, allowing Huntsman to fluster him. While by no means fatal, tonight was one big missed opportunity.
Even: Michele Bachmann: She schooled Rick Perry on Pakistan, but didn’t do nearly enough to change the trajectory of her campaign.
Even: Rick Perry: Expectations were absurdly low after his “oops” moment, and he managed to avoid another major gaffe. That said, out of nowhere he called on Leon Panetta to resign as Secretary of defence. His Pakistan answer needed a lot more work.
Loser: Herman Cain: He missed an opportunity to bounce back from his Libya gaffe, but had a strong answer on immigration and the threat of terrorists on the Mexican border. But on Iran, he seemed unprepared yet again, repeating that the country is in a “very mountainous region,” and saying that is why a military strike on the country’s nukes would not work.
Loser: Ron Paul: He brought up Timothy McVeigh, but seemed to forget that he killed 168 Americans, and he also confused al-Shabab and al-Qaeda. He had some strong answers that will appeal to libertarians — but he only lessened his appeal to everyone else.
Loser: Rick Santorum: He called Africa a country. Enough said.
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