Sunday, December 11, 2011

Barone on Last Night's Debate

Some interesting thoughts from Michael Barone:

The ABC commentators seemed pretty sure that Gingrich, the frontrunner in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida polls, and pressing for the lead in New Hampshire, came across ahead. Certainly Romney seemed somewhat more flustered and defensive than he has in most previous debates. Yet I think Gingrich may have sustained more damage than they suggest. Bachmann’s hard-hitting attacks may not have been ignored by Iowans who gave her the lead in polls in that state last summer. And Santorum may finally be making some headway. Any gains for either are likely, it seems, to come more out of Gingrich’s hide than Romney’s. And while Romney did not have a superb night, the spate of negative attacks from and to almost all directions insulates him from the risk which I argue in my Sunday Examiner column he has taken by launching negative attacks on Gingrich. If he were alone in going negative, we might see the dynamic of candidate A attacking candidate B which hurts both A and B and therefore helps candidate C (like John Kerry in Iowa in 2004 after Dick Gephardt attacked Howard Dean). When there’s lots of flak, incoming from all directions and headed in most directions too, the risks for the attacker are likely to be lesser. My conclusion: the plot thickens.

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