There was a Republican presidential debate on CNBC featuring the 8 major candidates (no Gary Johnson). The debate focused specifically on economic issues. I am biased on who did the best, based on my libertarian beliefs. With that said, I will first try to give a quick rundown of who I thought performed well, even if I didn't agree with them.
Aside from Ron Paul, I though Romney and Gingrich had the best performance. I disagree with Romney on many issues and I believe he is a phony when it comes to the things that he says in which I agree. However, he did hold his own tonight. Libertarians don't like him and most Tea Party people don't like him. He is a mercantilist as he showed when he advocated slapping tariffs (those are taxes) on Chinese products. But I don't think he hurt himself as far as his supporters go, who tend to be less fiscally conservative.
Newt Gingrich has had a brilliant strategy and it has worked in getting his poll numbers up. He is very careful not to criticize the other candidates. The few times he has done so in past debates, he has done it respectfully. But he doesn't just make Obama the target. He goes after the media, including the moderators of the debate. He basically tells them that they are asking dumb questions, without being quite that blunt. He is calling out the so-called liberal media, even if he doesn't use that term. Maria Bartiromo was about to blow a gasket at one point in the debate and I think that is what Gingrich wanted. Conservatives like it and that is why he is doing it.
I think Gingrich is a fraud, but he is a smart man. I don't think he will get the nomination. He is the Howard Dean of 2004. The Republicans would like to nominate Gingrich (just as the Democrats wanted to nominate Dean in 2004), but they sense that he could not win the general election. I think the Democrats were wrong in 2004 and made a blunder in putting up John Kerry. I think the Republicans are right though, in that Gingrich probably cannot beat Obama. The Republicans are not going to nominate someone who most likely cannot beat Obama.
I thought Michele Bachmann was a little stronger as compared to previous debates. She is much better on economic issues than foreign policy. She also didn't use any stupid lines tonight about making Obama "a one-term president". Maybe her advisors finally told her how dumb she sounded whenever she said that line. Bachmann has the same problem as Gingrich in that people question whether she could beat Obama.
Some people will say that Herman Cain did well tonight. He deflected the questions about his personal past. When it comes to the issues, I will continue to say that the man is just not that bright. He has absolutely no grasp of foreign policy, little grasp of economic issues, and has no plan to cut one dime in spending. The Republican voters need to wake up and start seeing through this man. He is absolutely horrible on all of the issues and he might even be worse than Obama, if that is possible.
Rick Perry had another poor performance. He actually listed some specific departments that he would get rid of, even though he couldn't think of one of them at the time. He isn't a good debater, but I'm not sure who people will turn to when Cain falls. Perry has a lot of money and backing and I would not count him out yet.
I thought Ron Paul did a good job overall in the debate. I wish he would have been more bold when he was talking about healthcare. Michele Bachmann may have actually done a better job on that topic. But Ron Paul is forcing the other candidates to take positions that I don't think they would have taken otherwise. He is talking about his plan to cut one trillion dollars in his first year and he hit the nail right on the head when he said that taxation is just a symptom of the spending. Everything revolves around spending. It is pointless to talk about tax reform if you don't address the out-of-control spending. The only other thing I wish he would have done is to challenge Herman Cain specifically. He should have pointed out that Cain has not identified one specific spending cut of any significance.
In conclusion, it looks like things still have a way to go before they play out. I believe that Cain will slip, as people realize that he is full of slogans, but short on specifics. It will become a race between Romney, Paul, and probably one other person. I'm not sure if that other person will be Perry, Gingrich, or Bachmann. Right now, I am still betting on Perry, despite his poor debate performances. He has a lot of money.
We will see if Ron Paul can get any pro-war Republicans to defect to his camp. He will not really lose supporters as other candidates do. His current supporters are strongly on his side and not going anywhere. If he gains some more momentum, he could actually make things very interesting.