CNN’s debate was about as entertaining as watching grass grow

If you were able to sit through the entire debate, I think you deserve an award. Seriously, that was rough. There wasn’t much in the way of substantive answers. And outside of Rep. Ron Paul, who is focusing his message on monetary policy and non-interventionist foreign policy, no one really seemed to want to separate themselves from the pack last night. There was a lot of agreement and no fireworks.

CNN’s John King, who served as the debate’s moderator, did a terrible job. He spent most of the evening utting “uh huh” behind the answers given by each question. Just before commercial breaks he asked candidates if they preferred “Conan or Leno,” “Elvis or Johnny Cash” and “Coke or Pepsi.” CNN will be hosting a Tea Party debate on September 12th, let’s hope they workout the kinks between now and then.

Michele Bachmann: Even though she contradicted herself on a couple of occasions - for example, saying that she wouldn’t interfere with state marriage laws, but yet supports a Federal Marriage Amendment; Bachmann, who used the debate as an opportunity to announce her candidacy, actually came across fairly well as far as communicating her message. I’d say she was in top three debate “winners.” By the way, Bachmann’s House seat seems to be up in the air. If she’s actively running for president, she can’t run for re-election. However, she has until June 2012 to make a decision.

Herman Cain: His star has risen since the first debate, but Cain was unable to repeat on his previous performance. He repeated his incredibly naive answer for supporting TARP, which is that he was shocked that the government would pick winners and losers (um, that’s what government does). Cain’s strategy to the Republican nomination seems to be trying to get by without giving much in the way of substantive answers in hopes that he can wow the conservative base of the Republican Party by talking in populist soundbytes that makes them feel good. Hmm, that reminds me of someone.

Newt Gingrich: I didn’t know they allowed zombies in presidential debates. Gingrich didn’t do anything near what he needed to do to bring his campaign back to life, but he did well as far as it goes. But whether his candidacy actually matters at this point remains to be seen.

Ron Paul: This was actually one of the better debate performances I’ve seen from Ron Paul. He received applause from the crowd on a few occasions. He still rushes through his answers, giving too much information in such a short amount of time. Dr. Paul has to remember that he is talking to a group of people that don’t know much about monetary policy or malinvestment. That’s not a criticism of his positions. I believe he is right on those issues. However, Dr. Paul has to frame his message coherently in simple terms for the average voter.

Tim Pawlenty: Despite going talking tough this weekend on Fox News Sunday criticizing the health care plan pushed by Mitt Romney, Pawlenty backed down in a big way, although he denies it, when given the opportunity by CNN’s John King. Pawlenty also repeated the tired “fair trade” line used frequently by populists like Tax Hike Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump. Pawlenty did use the debate as an opportunity to talk about his economic plan. He firmly believes that if Brazil and China can have 5% economic growth, so can the United States. That sort of optimism is something sorely lacking in this field.

Mitt Romney: I don’t particularly care for the guy or some of the policies he has pushed, but unless Pawlenty actually shows up at one of these debates, Sarah Palin and/or Rudy Giulani gets in or someone starts hammering him on the disastrous health care plan he pushed in Massachusetts (and yes, RomneyCare is essentially ObamaCare); Romney is going to be the GOP nominee. Romney won last night just by showing up and not making any real mistakes.

Rick Santorum: Speaking of candidacies that don’t matter. Santorum came off less angry this time around. He still has a lot of inconstitencies to deal with. He praises Medicare Part D, a multi-trillion dollar expansion of an already broken and bankrupt entitlement; yet he slams ObamaCare. Yes, Obama’s health “reform” law needs to be criticized for many reasons, most important of all that it clearly violates the Constitution. But one expansion of government is just as bad as the other. Santorum clearly doesn’t understand that.

I do have just one more thought on Romney and ObamaCare. As I said during the debate live-blog last night, either you’re going to attack Romney on this issue or you’re going to let him slide. There are big dividends for the candidate that can go after him face-to-face on this issue. If no one steps up, they are essentially conceeding that Romney will be the nominee and everyone else is auditioning to be his running mate.

The Washington Post has a fact-check already posted. Doug Mataconis offers up his thoughts on the debate over at Outside the Beltway. You should also check out comments from Jazz Shaw and Ed Morrissey, who think Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a huge opening to run for the nomination, at Hot Air.

I realize it’s still early on in the process and despite some spin to the contrary, I can’t help but look at this field and feel that Barack Obama’s re-election is an inevitability.

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