Did Ron Paul win the GOP debate?

May 06, 2011|By Luke Broadwater

Last night's GOP presidential debate was as newsworthy for who was there (and what they said) as for who wasn't there. Several of the bigger names from Republican politics didn't show. But out of those who did, who do you think won? Poll is to the left. 

Here's my take: 

• Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson scored points for his interesting life experience. He's climbed Mount Everest, ran in 30 marathons and is probably a better candidate for a reality show than Sarah Palin. He's a libertarian, which would usually make him stand out from the GOP field, but sharing a stage with the godfather of libertarians, Johnson comes across like Ron Paul-lite.

• Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain was a favorite of post-debate analysts and scored points with a funny quip about the advantage of not holding office ("How's that working for ya?" he asked the crowd of current incumbents.). That said, the debate exposed more weaknesses than strengths: He was forced to admit that he's never won an election and he hasn't researched the war in Afghanistan enough to form a position. 

• Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum was combative throughout the night, sparring with both Paul and the moderators. He was clearly the most authoritarian candidate on stage last night (though that's largely because Donald Trump wasn't there) defending torture and his record as a social conservative. He losses points because he's apparently incapable of talking without appearing sanctimonious. 

• U.S. Congressman Ron Paul wasn't at his best last night. He at times stammered through answers or meandered through a train of thought. Many will likely view some of his positions as extreme. That said, Paul's passionate opposition of militarism and big government was consistent. He spoke out against secret military prisons and in favor of drug legalization, earning applause all the way. 

• Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably did the best to improve his image during the debate. He was man enough to admit he made a mistake (though it's arguable whether he should be apologizing for opposing air pollution) and generally came across as the likable, nice guy on stage. That said, he might be haunted by a recent comment, calling President Barack Obama "weak." Pawlenty calling someone "weak" is like Paris Hilton calling someone else "stupid." 

My final analysis: 

Raised their stock: Pawlenty, Johnson

Lowered their stock: Santorum 

No change: Cain, Paul 

Debate winner: Paul 

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