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Washington - Analysis: Mitt Romney Leaves GOP Debate Unscathed (replay of full debate)

Published on: June 14, 2011 08:15 AM
By: AP
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From left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and businessman Herman Cain are seen on stage during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Monday, June 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)From left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and businessman Herman Cain are seen on stage during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Monday, June 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Washington - If Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and other Republican presidential hopefuls feel they need to close the gap on front-runner Mitt Romney, they didn’t show it at the New Hampshire debate.

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Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who leads in the early polls and fundraising efforts, had a surprisingly easy two hours Monday night. He looked calm and steady, criticizing President Barack Obama on the economy and health care while rarely being forced on the defensive despite some well-known vulnerabilities of his own.

With New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary half a year away, the seven GOP candidates seemed more eager to introduce themselves to voters in the televised event than to start ripping each other. They rarely differed on major policies. All agreed that Obama has botched the economy and doesn’t deserve a second term.

Near the end of the debate, Romney said anyone on the stage would be a better president than Obama. That was high praise for little-known candidate Herman Cain, libertarian hero Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum, who badly lost his last re-election bid in Pennsylvania. It also reflected how friendly everyone had been to Romney.

If any candidate had nearly as pleasant an evening as Romney, it was Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. She made maximum use of CNN’s live telecast to announce she was formally entering the race. And she showed a feisty but folksy style, perhaps grabbing an audience that many once thought would go to Sarah Palin, who was not present.

Before the debate, there were signs that Romney might be pressed harder on his record, especially the Massachusetts health care law that requires people to obtain health insurance. On Sunday, Pawlenty had derided the state law as “Obamneycare,” because it served as a model for Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, which many conservatives detest.

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, seemed loath to revisit the issue Monday. CNN moderator John King pressed him three times to explain why he had used the term “Obamneycare.” Finally, Pawlenty replied somewhat weakly that it was “a reflection of the president’s comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan.”

King had no more luck enticing the other six contenders to comment on Romney’s former support for legalized abortion, gay rights and gun control. He has switched his position on all those issues since his days as a Senate candidate and one-term governor in liberal-leaning Massachusetts.

King asked whether anyone on the stage felt Romney’s authenticity was “an issue in the campaign.” After a pause, Cain said, “Case closed,” and the discussion turned to other topics.

The crowded stage and tight time constraints made it difficult to tease out meaningful differences between the candidates. Bachmann said that as president, she would not interfere with states that recognize same-sex marriages.

Santorum and Romney said they support a constitutional amendment limiting marriage in all the states to one man and one woman. Bachmann jumped back in, saying she supported that too. But she had been asked earlier whether she would try to challenge state laws on a one-by-one basis, a different question.

Gingrich, the former House speaker who suffered a wholesale campaign staff defection last week, appeared rather grim and determined to show his toughness. In the opening greetings, when most candidates said little more than hello, Gingrich vowed “to end the Obama depression.”

That set the tone for an evening focused on the president, leaving Romney and his fellow Republicans unbruised.

“It was a very friendly debate to say the least, which helps Romney,” Republican adviser Greg Mueller said. “No one took center stage and emerged as the main challenger to Romney.”

A stiff challenge to Romney from the right “is there for the taking,” Mueller said, “but did not happen tonight.”

Summer, fall and Christmas will pass before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary take place. Romney’s rivals have plenty of time to mount their attacks. But on Monday in Manchester, they showed they are not ready yet.


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1

 Jun 14, 2011 at 08:28 AM gop2012 Says:

Tim Pawlenty all the way.

2

 Jun 14, 2011 at 09:04 AM Jew Says:

Reply to #1  
gop2012 Says:

Tim Pawlenty all the way.

Wrong, he is a looser.

3

 Jun 14, 2011 at 09:23 AM Anonymous Says:

I was impressed by Romney and less so by Pawlenty whose eocnomic proposals make no sense and his numbers don't add up. The other candidates on stage seemed to be a bunch of fringe meshugaaim better suited for Saturday night live satire. Caine keeps repeating the same vague answers to every question with no understanding of the underlying issue; Bachman would take women back to the stone ages. In a perverse way, I like Ron Paul but for his position on going back to the gold standard.

4

 Jun 14, 2011 at 09:49 AM PMOinFL Says:

The fact is that the only two who are even remotely electable are Romney and Pawlenty. That's it. The rest are on stage purely for entertainment value and to satisfy their own egos.

Neither Romney or Pawlenty are Conservatives. Their records show fairly centrist-liberal ideas throughout their careers, not matter what either of them is saying today.

Campaign season is the time to convince people that you are not what your history shows you are, and hope they don't come to their senses before the election.

We need REAL Conservatives to run and we haven't seen him or her step into the ring yet... but hopefully we will before it is too late.

5

 Jun 14, 2011 at 01:51 PM Pawlenty2012 Says:

Reply to #4  
PMOinFL Says:

The fact is that the only two who are even remotely electable are Romney and Pawlenty. That's it. The rest are on stage purely for entertainment value and to satisfy their own egos.

Neither Romney or Pawlenty are Conservatives. Their records show fairly centrist-liberal ideas throughout their careers, not matter what either of them is saying today.

Campaign season is the time to convince people that you are not what your history shows you are, and hope they don't come to their senses before the election.

We need REAL Conservatives to run and we haven't seen him or her step into the ring yet... but hopefully we will before it is too late.

Enough with your nonsense knock it off. Stop being so bitter. Go vote for obama. We will beet Obama.

6

 Jun 14, 2011 at 03:10 PM liberals-are-nuts Says:

Reply to #5  
Pawlenty2012 Says:

Enough with your nonsense knock it off. Stop being so bitter. Go vote for obama. We will beet Obama.

Sorry Beat!

7

 Jun 14, 2011 at 03:46 PM PMOinFL Says:

Reply to #5  
Pawlenty2012 Says:

Enough with your nonsense knock it off. Stop being so bitter. Go vote for obama. We will beet Obama.

I'm sorry.... do facts bother you? Forgive me. I didn't realize that stating the truth was an offensive thing to do in your world. Please forgive me... I don't want to make your "gods" who speak through your radio angry. (sarcasm 100% intended)

8

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