Tonight's GOP Debate

Here is what the past two hours or so boil down to:

- Mitt Romney has greatly increased his lead over everyone else, at least in the "rational" primary.

- He has become objectively good at debating and question-answering. Obama should be paying attention.

- Poor Rick Perry. In a different world, he would not have had to go through the gauntlet of these past two months of nationally televised debates and might still be the front runner. He is really, really not good in "debate format," and has not gotten better enough fast enough.

- Herman Cain wears well as an engaging public figure. Twinkle in his eye as he says "9-9-9!" for the five-hundredth time. "I was po' before I was poor" in the weird closing round of candidates trying to outdo one another in log cabin-style hardship stories. Can imagine him being a long-time fixture on TV and public life. I'd watch!

- Is Romney so much better than everyone else because he has made a serious run before? (On the other hand, so have Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich sort of, etc). I don't know, but it's a huge gap.

- Audience didn't embarrass itself! Apart from whatever was the one-person shouting protest near the end.

To boil it down, if anyone asks you about the debate, you can say:  "Romney by a mile." Now where is my beer?

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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