And when I say "fun", I mean fun in a sort of horrified fascination at how extreme most of the candidates were. But I love to watch Republicans attacking Republicans, especially thinking of how the hallowed Saint Ronnie is spinning in his grave.
Herbert Cain ("Herbert"? Maybe I mean "Herman"?...I don't really know or care) was exposed as the naive dolt we all pretty suspected him of being when he blathered stupidly about how emptying Gitmo in exchange for a single US hostage was a really swell idea.
Now, I'm not against closing Gitmo and giving the suspected terrorists a fair trial under US law, but for Cain to say something like that in front of a Republican crowd and, worse yet, the other candidates, is simply not very smart. Plus, his "9-9-9" tax plan is obviously ill-conceived when he has such a tenuous grasp on the concept that he flings crippled metaphors about trying to explain it to his fellow Republicans. Who else besides me wasn't sick of hearing about "apples" and "oranges" by the end of the night?
Michelle Bachmann was seen stalking around the edges of the debate, her crazy eyes lit up like a nighttime flash photo of a wild panther in National Geographic. I suspect when she's at home she scrawls obsessively on the walls like John Nash from "A Beautiful Mind", only less coherently. But as far as substance goes, there just isn't much there.
Some other guys were there too, but besides me catching a fleeting glimpse of Newt Gingrich's weirdly bloated face, the main story was Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Perry was in full attack mode last night. He (and the other candidates) hammered on Romney about his revolutionary healthcare plan, and his "hiring" of illegal immigrants to cut his lawn.
Romney pretty much dealt with the attacks and constant interruptions deftly, turning the charges of hiring undocumented workers back onto Perry with this uncharacteristically redundant counter-attack:
"Texas has had 60% increase in illegal immigrants in Texas," Romney charged. "If there's someone who has a record as governor with regards to illegal immigration that doesn't stand up to muster, it's you, not me."
Romney also countered the healthcare charges by explaining that the Massachusetts healthcare plan was right for his state but not necessarily for the rest of the nation.
Truth be told, out of all the Republican contenders, I think Mitt Romney will be the most difficult to beat should he win the nomination. I've long said that he is the most moderate challenger in the race, and while he'll have trouble with the GOP base in the primaries, in the general election he'll quite possibly receive a significant percentage of the unaffiliated vote.
However, this is just one more debate in a seemingly endless series of debates. I believe the next big GOP debate is scheduled for November 9th, and the topic will be foreign policy. This will be a golden opportunity for the extremist candidates to take their "crazy" out for a walk in public. If Romney manages to sound halfway smart in that one, it will likely cement his position as front runner going into the (early) January primaries.
Which, by the way, are already breaking down into another rush to "front load" the schedule, as several states have already done. I still don't know why they haven't worked out some sort of plan that gives the primary schedule some breathing room and allows voters in more states the time to actually see and hear the candidates in person.
But I've never accused the Republicans of being too smart.
And, judging from the talking heads this morning, the big winner of last night's debate was President Obama.