Debate Post-Game: ABC counted more than 7.5 million viewers of the Republican presidential candidate debate Saturday night at Drake University in Des Moines. Perhaps, NBC's prime-time schedule could accommodate some of those?
Here are the memorables in my mind from the night:
The Backhanded Praise.
And probably in that order.
The Defense: Newt Gingrich looked and listened to candidates as they answered the question about whether the country can trust a man who messes around on his wife (I mention that because he seemed to look elsewhere at other points when candidates criticized him for other reasons). Rick Perry was the only candidate to essentially say "no". Gingrich admitted mistakes and also admitted his infidelity is an issue for voters to consider. Although, obviously, he urges them to look at the fact he's changed his ways and accomplished many things in life. I'll be curious how candidates handle the "issue" now that Gingrich has had to talk about it during a debate. Move on?
The Bet: It seems like people will talk about this one for a while. Perry apparently already has a commercial ready to go about it. Will Romney's $10,000 bet come back to bite Romney in the rear, making his look like a really rich out-of-touch guy? Or will this make Perry just look desperate?
The Name: Well, Michele Bachmann needed to find a way to get her name back in the national conversation, so she invented one. Or at least someone else invented one for her: "Newt Romney". She tries to lump Gingrich and Romney together so voters think they're interchangeable and interchangeably not the solid Republican she is. Gingrich made sure to point out innaccuracies in her comments following the name. But can she get the name to stick and knock down the new combination down a few notches, giving her a much-needed boost? (By the way, coincidentally, Romney's 2008 Iowa Chairman Doug Gross used the same "Newt Romney" line on Channel 13's "Insiders". The show aired Sunday morning. But we taped it Thursday afternoon. However, unless Bachmann had our studio bugged, I doubt she got the name from Gross. And Gross maintains it was just a slip of the tongue. Fun coincidence, if nothing else.)
The Backhanded Praise: Rick Santorum is another one who needed to inject himself into the national conversation. He gave the most Iowa shoutouts, even mentioning tiny Fremont County in far southwest Iowa. It might earn some love from the state he's traveled so much. But, perhaps, his bigger moment could be coming after Bachmann. He complimented her on her consistent conservative past. But he didn't stop there. He then said Bachmann has fought and lost, while he has fought and won. The two candidates fight over some of the same social conservatives. And with Herman Cain's following up for grabs, we'll see if voters follow Santorum's comparison.
The Charge: This one's not getting nearly the attention the day after. But Ron Paul continued his assault on Gingrich for taking millions from Freddie Mac. Paul said Gingrich probably got some of taxpayers' money. Paul's brought some of the most aggressive campaign ads so far against Gingrich, and this charge continues their theme.