Republicans vying for the GOP nomination faced off for the second time last night in Iowa. And while it can be said that fireworks flew, the details on how each candidate would turn around the economy and defeat Barack Obama were few.
In true form, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney offered a seven-point plan with few specifics. Other candidates regurgitated staid ideas, or touted what they did in the past. But many had trouble focusing on the future.
Here’s how they fared:
Mitt Romney: The frontrunner played not to lose last night – and did just that. As the one leading in the polls, Mitt needed to either do no harm or dazzle the crowd even further to solidify his leader status. He failed at the latter, but escaped unscathed yet again as his challengers missed an opportunity to take him on – especially when it comes to Romney-care, his health care plan for Massachusetts, as his answers on the subject were insufficient.
Michelle Bachmann: The Minnesota congresswoman was the star of the last debate in New Hampshire. But her ever-present smile was turned upside down for most of the night as she battled with Tim Pawlenty - a big mistake. Pawlenty wanted nothing more to be recognized and engaged, so he could make himself relevant. He tricked her into a fight and she took the bait. Her best answer was in response to the question about submitting to her husband.
Tim Pawlenty: The former Minnesota governor needed to hit a home run last night, and he bungled it. He missed an opportunity to take on the real frontrunner (Romney) and offered nothing more than slogans and bulletpoints from his resume. It’s also very difficult to go negative on a woman opponent. When he tried to school Bachmann on her record, he looked like a jerk. He’s toast.
Newt Gingrich: The former Speaker of the House had the best performance of the evening. He was fiery, full of information, and ditched the Beltway speak for straight talk. His calling the supercommittee “dumb” was his best line. But he wasted time on fighting with the Fox News moderators and not the other candidates on the stage. Though he shined last night, his stellar showing is sadly too little, too late.
Herman Cain: The pizza magnate needed to prove he can handle a debate with Barack Obama despite his lack of public sector experience and sadly, he missed the mark. He could have taken shots at the others to get some traction, but he got lost in the shuffle.
Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator has one shot to stay alive in this race, and last night was his chance. But he was left out of the debate largely during the first half, and spent the second half fighting with Ron Paul about war, and ratcheting up his language on social issues. This may play well with the Iowa audience, but he got lost in the shuffle. He needs to place in the Ames straw poll to stay alive.
Ron Paul: The libertarian leader gave some solid answers last night, but also proved that if quirky, fringe, unhinged views got you good grades, Paul would be magna cum laude.
Jon Huntsman: He deserves credit for ditching the canned stump speeches and giving a straight answer on being in favor of civil unions. But to the GOP, his response was political suicide. He also refused to take on the Chinese. It’s soft answers like this that make him more ambassadorial material than presidential material.
Andrea Tantaros currently serves as co-host of Fox News Channel's The Five (weekdays 5-6 PM/ET). She joined the network as a contributor in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros or on Facebook.com/andreatantaros.