Tonight's GOP Debate

By James Fallows

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?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/tonights-gop-debate/246523/