A baker’s dozen obervations

I watched the whole thing live from Charleston on CNN last night. Herewith a few observations, inspired by Jonah Goldberg’s even dozen:

1. John King asked each of the four candidates to introduce himself. I wish someone — Newt? — had declined to perform as requested. Instead, everyone but Newt took the occasion to emphasize his stable married life by contrast with a mysterious someone who went unmentioned. I thought that was a little obvious, if not unnecessary.

2. The best defense is a good offense. I thought Newt’s attack on ABC and CNN was questionable at best, demagogic at worst, but amazingly effective to present himself as a victim of media bias. When John King shifted responsiblity for the question to ABC — a sign of bad character! — Newt’s comeback was an angry roundhouse right, hard for a conservative not to enjoy. Will it help Newt? It helped him last night.

3. As a Minnesotan, I am unable to participate in the primary process, but I view myself as the average Republican primary voter. I identify with the heart of the South Carolina GOP: I am conservative and I want a candidate who can beat Obama. Excluding Ron Paul from my deliberations, I have an open mind about who of the three it might be, if anyone. Romneycare is Mitt’s ball and chain, and his continued defense of it is tough to take, but his commitment to undo Obamacare did something to allay my concerns about him last night.

4. Santorum was fighting for his life, hoping to avoid a last place showing. He landed effective blows against both Newt and Mitt, but I thought he was unappealing in the process.

5. Mitt hasn’t got the tax returns thing figured out yet. That was not impressive, but I laughed at his answer to King’s initial question: “Maybe!” Better get the answer figured out soon.

6. Ron Paul said he would be embarrassed to release his tax returns because his income is so paltry. For a guy who holds himself out as a teller of uncomfortable truths, he got away with something on that one last night.

7. Whatever happened to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan?

8. John King asked the candidates what mistakes they regretted in their campaigns. I thought that Romney’s answer — having turned fire on his GOP opponents rather than Obama — was terrific.

9. I thought that Santorum’s assault on Romneycare was effective on the merits. Mitt’s defense of Romneycare on the merits is a loser. Does Mitt’s commitment to undo Obamacare resolve the problem? “Maybe!”

10. Santorum’s lampooning of Newt’s “grandiosity” was on the money. A memorable moment. Newt seized the mantle of grandiosity and attempted to turn it to his advantage. My comment: I think Mitt enjoyed this part of the debate the most.

11. Newt’s best moment was his appeal to elect the Republican presidential candidate in order to help our kids get jobs and procure their own health insurance. Santorum’s best moment was his closing — too late to do him much good.

12. John King was less offensive than most of the MSM moderators have been, but he was still lame.

13. Based on the audience response last night — is that fair? — I think Newt will win the South Carolina primary. If I could vote in the primary, I think I would vote for Romney based on his performance last night.

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