Republicans 2012: Mitt Romney survives the third GOP debate.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 12 2011 2:23 AM

Snipefest!

Bachmann slams Pawlenty, Santorum ribs Ron Paul, Gingrich slaps Fox News—and Romney smiles.

(Continued from Page 1)

Bachmann has a strong following and organization, and she is likely to do well in Saturday's vote. She couldn't afford to lose her momentum, and she didn't. She parried Pawlenty's attacks forcefully.

The second debate of the night was between Newt Gingrich and Fox News. The former House speaker was asked about the mass defection of his aides and about his overspending, and he shot back that it was a gotcha question. "I'd love to see the rest of tonight's debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games," he said.

Great answer. Great theater. Very silly. Gingrich is a man of a thousand ideas, but leadership is about ideas and implementation. Gingrich has shown a lack of discipline in his professional and private life. A question about an undisciplined campaign goes directly to his abilities as a leader. Gingrich made this point later when talking about Ronald Reagan, who, he pointed out, was able to pass tax cuts with a Democratic Congress by rallying the country. That kind of thing requires operational discipline that Gingrich hasn't shown.

The third fight was between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul over Iran. Paul, who broadly disapproves of U.S. meddling in the affairs of other nations, said the United States should not fret about Iran gaining nuclear weapons. Santorum jumped on Paul, saying anyone who held Paul's view "is obviously not seeing the world very clearly." Paul accused Santorum of a march to war identical to the one that led to the conflict in Iraq.

Advertisement

Paul was once again the crowd favorite. He will do well in the straw poll. When he talks about individual liberty and spending restraint, it sounds far more authentic than when the other candidates sound similar themes.

It was Gov. Jon Huntsman's first debate. He offered his own version of leadership. He was the only candidate who praised the House Republican debt-limit deal. He stood by his support of civil unions. He embraced the moderate view of leadership focused on working together and getting solutions. He seemed out of place in a party that doesn't define leadership that way. If Michele Bachmann is red meat, he is soybean.

Still, in a debate about leadership and whether it is demonstrated through compromise or by steadfast adherence, the view was clearly tilted toward the latter. When the candidates were asked if, in order to get a agreement on cutting spending, they would accept a deal that included a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, not one candidate said they would.

This was the last debate before Texas Gov. Rick Perry enters the race. He has a populist appeal, a record in his three terms as governor that will sound good to GOP activists, and a network of fundraisers ready to launch his campaign. He is slated to announce Saturday, which means Mitt Romney may only have a few more days to enjoy that smile.

Become a fan of  John Dickerson on Facebook.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s  Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 12:07 PM Divestment Isn’t the Answer To destroy demand for fossil fuels, universities can do a lot better than just selling some stocks.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 12:00 PM Dear Prudence Live Chat For September 22, 2014.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:21 PM Watch John Oliver Take on Miss America
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 11:32 AM South Park Takes on Washington’s NFL Team and Its Terrible Name
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.