IA Caucus: Feb. 6, 2012
NH Primary: Feb. 7, 2012
NV Caucus: Feb. 18, 2012
SC Primary: Feb. 28, 2012

This is a special edition of the horserace, the day before Ames and the RedState Gathering.Last night in Iowa, the Republicans debated. It was like the Island of Misfit Toys. Mitt Romney won the debate if only because Ames is apparently not big enough for two Minnesotans. The barbs between Bachmann and Pawlenty did them no favors. Ron Paul embarrassed himself without even knowing it. The debate was a spectacle to behold.And then there is Rick Perry. He wasn’t on stage, but he certainly had to be in the minds of the candidates. Jon Huntsman alone proved himself . . . well . . . I don’t think I can say the word . . . let’s just say yuck.We’ll get into all of it and resurrect Newt and Santorum for this week’s horserace.

Michele Bachmann

I did not think Michele Bachmann helped herself in last night’s debate. She came across as desperate and several of her attacks on Tim Pawlenty came across as inside baseball for Minnesota politics.A number of her answers were strong, but the attacks were a distraction. The one thing to remember though is that most analysts point out that Bachmann has a lot of energy on the ground, but Pawlenty has serious organization. Bachmann is going to have to keep up the energy levels to get out her crowd. In that regard, the attacks might have worked a bit, but it seemed to me she was knocked off her game a bit. Nonetheless, I think Bachmann’s campaign strategy is going to have to seriously alter when Rick Perry enters.

Herman Cain

Cain struggled for time in the debate last night, but he did one thing very well — he was honest. It was refreshing when the other candidates were attacking each other for Cain to lay out his answers in a simple fashion in outline form.In fact, others started copying that.The downside for Herman Cain is that he did not get a lot of air time in the debate as squabbling between other candidates got the best of the time. But Mitt Romney did seem to endorse him and that shout out helps him with his base of supporters.He’s going to have to really surprise people on Saturday. If he does well, I think a path to victory might open up for him that does not now exist.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has never had a problem debating or giving speeches. Debates and speeches are not Newt Gingrich’s problems. Everything else is.As Alex Castellanos pointed out on CNN last night, Newt wound up picking fights with Fox News moderators. Perhaps he was trying for a “this is my microphone” Ronald Reagan moment. If so, he failed.

Jon Huntsman

I have a bias against Huntsman and I readily admit it. But he comes across as greasy to me.He showed his left leaning colors by mocking Rick Perry’s prayer event in Texas when asked about Perry.And on the seminal issue of the election — the economy — the moderators asked him where his economic plan was. His response? It’s coming.Maybe so, but not in time for a victory.

Sarah Palin

I just do not believe that, at this time, she is running.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul will not be the nominee. Last night, he destroyed any remaining credibility he had with a lot of people giving him good will on his domestic view points because of his suicidal views on Iran.

Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty is a nice guy. I do not think he came off badly defending himself against Bachmann’s attacks and I think he did a good job against Mitt Romney, but that is in comparison to the last time. His performance was improved and, God bless him, he comes off as likable even when throwing a punch.His campaign in Iowa is well organized and he has put in a lot of time there. Perhaps a solid win in Ames can vault him higher in the polls. Right now though, my fear is Tim Pawlenty will have to spend so much time trying to do well in Iowa that he will then have no available resources to do well elsewhere.The Pawlenty campaign walks a tightrope and Rick Perry’s entry complicates his path to victory.

Rick Perry

Rick Perry is in. He will announce at 1pm on Saturday as the folks in Ames, IA are having their straw poll. Polling suggests he will do well.But . . . there is a gut level suspicion among a number of pundits that Perry is a paper tiger. Combine this with his opponents pushing the story that Perry is the second coming of Fred Thompson, and Perry is going to have to prove himself early on.Here’s the danger for the other candidates I have seen myself. There is real dissatisfaction with the field. Even a lot of elected officials are dissatisfied. If Perry shows he is not a paper tiger, he will suck a lot of oxygen out of the room fast.And his absence on stage at the Iowa Debate of the Island of Misfit Toys really, really helped him.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney won the Iowa debate by virtue of staying above the fray. No one scored a real hit against him. And there was a real psychological plus for Romney in that he isn’t really even competing in the straw poll, so he did not have much to lose playing a defense strategy.It worked. He looked Presidential. And he will need to keep that up as Rick Perry enters the race.

Listing of Presidential candidates
I consider “former” candidates

(in order of being dropped)

Gary Johnson
Rick Santorum
Thad McCotter
Newt Gingrich