Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I gave MSNBC ratings. But in doing so I can say this is a two man race — Perry vs. Romney. It is also clear in this first debate that Perry is the front runner now. I would still prefer to have a few more debates on this before declaring it, but below I'll explain why it is clear he is whether I want to think so or not.
The most shocking bit of the whole debate was at the very end. I felt a great disturbance in the Force as if millions of Republicans cried out in terror and suddenly realized they were watching MSNBC.
First, I don't think Perry had as strong a performance tonight as he could have. He stumbled several times. Romney had a stronger performance — the strongest of anyone on stage in fact. But then, Romney has been in this dog and pony show since 2007. Perry is just stepping up to this level. He made no major mistakes, but could have been stronger on the HPV issue and a few other issues.
Second, it is clear Perry is the front runner given the pile on from the other candidates. It was not just pushed by MBNBC and the Politico. The other candidates took willful potshots against Rick Perry. Perry, despite some stumbles and the pile on by the moderators and other participants, held his own and will only get stronger the more of these he does. And if he doesn't? Goodbye frontrunner status.
Third, Michele Bachmann's star has faded. The recognition of this is the reporter focus on Perry v. Romney buttressed by Bachmann's own outgoing campaign manager, Ed Rollins, that the race was a two man race between Perry and Romney.
Fourth, Newt Gingrich. What an intellect. What a mind. What a debater. What might have been.
Fifth, I am thankful I did not somehow get on tonight's rapid response email list for all the candidates. Usually I am. Tonight, the only campaign doing aggressive rapid response into my email inbox is the Paul campaign. And 100% of his rapid response emails attacked Rick Perry.
Sixth, Warner Brothers wants Marvin the Martian back in Looney Tunes. Thus ends the Ron Paul campaign.
Finally, I think Mitt Romney's "play it safe" strategy is about to come crashing down on his. In the exchange between Perry and Romney on social security and ponzi schemes, Perry gave a less than stellar answer. But Romney then tried to pile on by rejecting the idea that social security is a failure.
Republicans should pay attention to this. Mitt Romney proclaimed making several generations of Americans dependent on the federal government for their retirement a success. That may play well to Washington, D.C. But it increasingly doesn't even play well with senior citizens worried about their grandchildren's futures.