The First Republican Debate

I’ve been watching the first debate of the GOP primary season, from South Carolina. It has been surprisingly interesting and impressive. Most of the big names aren’t participating, but the quality of the discussion has been high. Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Gary Johnson have all done pretty well, and even Ron Paul hasn’t been as obnoxious as usual. But the main story, I think, is Tim Pawlenty’s strong performance.
Pawlenty is the top candidate participating in this debate, and he seized control of the podium from the beginning. Pawlenty has knocked one question after another out of the park, like a major leaguer taking batting practice in a AA field.
We should note, too, that the Fox News personalities who are asking the questions are doing a fine job. The debate has been a solid, high-level, substantive and collegial discussion of the issues. Not many outside the hard core are watching, of course, but we can hope that this beginning bodes well for the upcoming campaign.
UPDATE: No sooner had I praised the event than it went downhill. A long detour through the social issues was less than edifying. One hopes the discussion will get back to the main issues.
FURTHER UPDATE: The Frank Luntz focus group on Fox goes overwhelmingly for Herman Cain. Not sure what to make of that. He is a good guy and comes across well in person; a few years ago, he spoke right after me at an event and was impressive. But it will take quite a bit more to consider him a serious candidate.

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