The New Hampshire GOP debate was, as Carl Cannon writes, a surprisingly friendly affair.
Now that was more like it. Seven Republican presidential candidates showed up Monday night to debate one another at New Hampshire's Saint Anselm College, where they looked -- if not entirely presidential -- then at least poised, collegial and in command of their talking points.
All seven managed to express their differences on public policy without being uncivil to one another, or even disagreeing directly with their fellow candidates. This was made easier by the their shared antipathy for the Obama administration -- and because their differences are pretty nuanced: In case there was any remaining doubt, Monday's session underscored just how conservative the modern Republican Party has become, whether one hails from Ron Paul's libertarian wing, Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus, or the mainstream establishment of Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
Of course, the format almost ruled out any possibility of actual debate, with its quick-march question-and-sorry-to-cut-you-off approach. But the tone of mutual respect was still unexpected and, as everybody has pointed out, it certainly helped Romney.
Pawlenty's artless, hesitant ducking of the chance to attack the front-runner on health care was embarrassing to see, and surely knocks him down the rankings. If Michele Bachmann finished in second place, as many are arguing, then Romney, barring new entrants and Jon Huntsman, is comfortably in command. And that is how he looked.