What You Missed in the Primary Season’s Third Republican Debate

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Photo: Charlie Neibergall-Pool/Getty Images

There were no dumb "Coke or Pepsi" questions in last night's Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, and if everyone is being honest with themselves, we're all kind of disappointed about that. But there was plenty of other great action you may have missed if you didn't tune in: Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann attacking each other for minutes at a time! Herman Cain quoting Donna Summer, probably without knowing it! Lots of people saying lots of untrue things! As a service to our readers, we have tallied up the debate's best moments both in a video summary and a recap below.

Most Hopeless Plea: Host Bret Baier asking the candidates, at the start, to “try to put aside the talking points, try to put aside the polished lines that get applause on the campaign trail.”

Amount of Time After He Said That Until Someone Gave a Polished Line That Gets Applause on the Campaign Trail: 80 seconds, when Michele Bachmann said, “Two days from now, Bret, we get to send a message to Barack Obama. And the message is this: You are finished in 2012, and you will be a one … term … president!

Strangest Way to Communicate One’s Opposition to the Debt-Ceiling Deal: “Well look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food.” — Mitt Romney

Worst Understanding of the S&P Downgrade: “I was proved right in my position: We should not have raised the debt ceiling.” — Michele Bachmann

The Most Reasonable Thing Anyone Said About the Debt Ceiling: “To suggest that we never need to raise the debt ceiling, that — that is, again, showmanship, not leadership. Of course we have to raise the debt ceiling at some point. We have — we have — we're borrowing 42 cents of every dollar, 42 cents of every dollar. You're going to cut 42 cents of every dollar? Just to remind you, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense, and interest on the debt is 60 percent. That means cut everything else and something of those. That's showmanship, not leadership.” — Rick Santorum

Most Self-Evidently Illogical Statement: “Congress gave Obama a $2.4 million blank check." — Michele Bachmann

Number of mentions of “Reagan”: Four (three by Gingrich, one by Paul)

Number of mentions of “Bush”: Two (both by host Bret Baier)

Amount of Time Into Rick Santorum’s Very First Remarks of the Night That He Mentioned Growing Up in a “Steel Town”: 25 seconds

Top Three Barbs of the Four-Minute Bachmann–Pawlenty Battle:
3. “It is an indisputable fact that in Congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent.” — Tim Pawlenty
2. “You said the era of small government was over. That sounds more like Barack Obama, if you ask me.” — Michele Bachmann
1. “She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP …. If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you're killing us." — Tim Pawlenty.

Most Straw-y Straw Man: “I know there are some people in Washington that doesn't understand how the free economy works. They think if you invest in a business, it's always going to go well.” — Mitt Romney.

Number of Separate Occasions That Newt Gingrich Complained About “Gotcha Questions”: Twice — once when he was asked about his staff departures, and once when asked about flip-flopping on Libya.

Most Blatantly False Denial: Herman Cain claiming that he never said that local communities should be able to ban mosques.

Most Exaggerated Criticism of President Obama: Mitt Romney, claiming once again, that Obama has never “had a job.”

Top Two Biggest Dodges:
2. Jon Huntsman evading a question on whether he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
1. Mitt Romney refusing to give a direct response to a question on the time he raised taxes to secure a good S&P credit rating.

Most Nitpicky Defense of One's Own Resume: Tim Pawlenty insisting that as governor he instituted a “cigarette fee,” and not a “cigarette tax.” (It was a mistake regardless, he admitted.)

Number of Candidates Who Said They Would Walk Away From a Debt-Reduction Deal That Contained a 10/1 Ratio of Spending Cuts to Revenue Increases: All of them.

Worst Constitutional Analysis: “This is clearly an unconstitutional action, whether it's done at the federal level or whether it's the state level.” — Michele Bachmann, on the health-insurance mandate.

Best Advice for America: “America has got to learn how to take a joke.” — Herman Cain

Biggest Amateur Debate Move: Michele Bachmann returning late to the stage after the debate resumed following a commercial break.

Most Iconoclastic Position: Ron Paul, seemingly being fine with Iran having nuclear weapons.

Thing You Least Expected to Come Out of Rick Santorum’s Mouth: A criticism of Iran for “trampl[ing] the rights of gays.”

Most Unpopular Question With the Audience: When the Washington Examiner's Byron York asked Michele Bachmann if she would be “submissive” to her husband as president.

Most Excessive Criticism of the Federal Government: Jon Huntsman referring to the “EPA's regulatory reign of terror”— twice.

Best (and Also Unintentional?) Donna Summer Reference: In his closing statement, Herman Cain said, “A poet once said, life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the line.” These are lyrics from the Donna Summer song “The Power of One,” the theme song to Pokémon: The Movie 2000. (Read our in-depth investigation here.)