master debaters

What You Missed in the 15th GOP Debate

CONCORD, NH - JANUARY 08: Republican presidential candidates, (L-R) former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate during the NBC News Facebook Debate on 'Meet the Press' January 8, 2012 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire. The candidates participated in the last debate before the primary election on Tuesday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney does that weird thing where he looks longingly at someone as they talk. Photo: Alex Wong/2012 Getty Images

With just two days before the New Hampshire primary, this morning’s debate — yes, they held a debate at 9 a.m. on a Sunday …. thanks NBC — was the last, best chance for the race’s remaining cast of not-Romneys to make a major splash as they jockey for a possibly momentum-providing second place finish. Newt Gingrich, in particular, was in a combative mood, attacking Romney for claiming he wasn’t a “career politician,” for his negative super PAC ads, for his “timid” tax plan, and for his record as “moderate” governor. Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum also criticized Romney in harsh terms, while Rick Perry was content to cast the whole lot as “insiders,” and Ron Paul continued to focus on, as he calls it, “preaching the Gospel of liberty.” All in all, it was a much rougher debate for Romney than last night’s ABC-sponsored snooze-fest

Time Since Last Debate Ended: 10 hours, 20 minutes

Number of Times the Candidates Said the Word Reagan: 8 (Gingrich 7, Santorum 1)

Number of Times the Candidates Said the World Bush: Zero

Most Disingenuous Thing Anyone Said: “This for me, politics, is not a career.” – Mitt Romney, who ran for Senate in 1994, served as governor from 2003 to 2007, ran for president in 2008, and is running for president in 2012.

Two Angriest Things Newt Gingrich Said to Mitt Romney:

 2. “I realize the red light doesn’t mean anything to you, because you’re the front-runner.” — Gingrich, on Romney speaking longer than his allotted time.

 1. “Can we drop a little of the pious baloney? — Gingrich, on Romney’s claim that he hasn’t spent his career in politics. 

Phrase That Could Work Best as an Oscar-Meyer Product: “Pious baloney.”

Strongest Jon Huntsman Moment (Of the Entire Campaign):

Biggest Dodge: “Well, who knows more about tax policy?  I’m not sure that we’re gonna choose from the two of them.” — Mitt Romney, when asked whether Warren Buffet or Grover Norquist knows more about the economy.

Worst Recitation of a Well-Known Political Aphorism:  “This ain’t the beanbag.” – Mitt Romney.

Least Courageous Answer: Rick Perry, asked to name something he’d do that would make his own party uncomfortable, says he would push for the Balanced Budget Amendment.

Most Self-Undermining Remarks: Mitt Romney claiming that he hasn’t seen the pro-Romney super PAC ads that Newt Gingrich has been complaining about, then immediately reciting the content of one of them:

Question That Was Most Unlikely to Elicit an Honest Response: Asking Rick Santorum if he would be a voice for “speaking out for gay rights” as president. Santorum said he would “be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity.”

Best Rick Perry Word Salad: “I make a very proud statement and a fact that we have a president who’s a socialist.”

Most Undeserved and Possibly Derisive Applause: When Rick Perry successfully listed the three federal agencies that he couldn’t name during his stroke on November 9:

Two Suddenly Reputable Publications: The Washington Post and the New York Times, both of which ran unflattering Romney articles that Newt Gingrich would like you to look at.

Winner: Jon Huntsman

Loser: Mitt Romney