Last Thursday Fox News hosted the first debate of the 2012 republican primary. While many pundits going into the event saw this as more of a “non-debate” that was going to be of little consequence I saw things differently; in fact I saw two clear winners and losers.
The first loser of Thursday’s debate was Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty, once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, was the only candidate that appeared who was considered by inside the beltway pundits as a serious contender for the Republican nomination. As such he could settle for no less than to completely dominate the four underdogs. While Pawlenty made no serious blunders, he was seen by many as just mediocre allowing the night’s winner to steal the show.
Herman Cain, considered to be of little consequence in the election, was overwhelmingly the night’s big winner. Pollster Frank Luntz had a group of twenty-nine republican voters viewing the debate and rating the performance of the candidates. Going into the debate the group consisted of only one Cain supporter, by the end of the night an overwhelming majority considered him the winner and to now be a serious candidate. The former businessman out staged the establishment-candidate and showed that 2012 could turn out to be a very volatile year.
Our second loser of the night is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gingrich made one critical error in making it pretty clear to everyone that he intended to enter the primary, but only after the years first debate had passed. With only one other southerner likely to enter the race South Carolina is a critical state in Gingrich’s path to the White House and his move to blatantly skip this first in the Nation Primary debate in this crucial early voting state will prove to be his undoing. The South Carolinians will view this move as an insulting slap in the face and will flock to Huckabee when he enters the race.
Huckabee, who is seen by most a legitimately undecided about 2012, will greatly benefit from the former Speakers misstep and easily carry South Carolina making him our last big winner of the night. This primary victory will come shortly after the former Arkansas Governor wins the Iowa Caucuses and will likely be the beginning of a snowball that leads him all the way the next summer’s convention.