The fifth Republican presidential debate since Labor Day -- and by far the most entertaining -- had the same winner as the previous four. Mitt Romney is the only person on the stage who understands -- or can at least speak clearly on -- the full breadth of issues that face the president. Romney took heavy fire from nearly everyone, but his rivals usually did more harm to themselves.
The biggest story of the debate was the puncturing of the Herman Cain bubble. In the opening minutes, Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan came under attack from nearly everyone. Cain didn't back down but he proved it's much too hard to defend. He was nearly absent the rest of the debate.
Meanwhile, Rick Perry knew he had probably just one more chance to prove his candidacy but he swung wildly at Romney and missed. He only proved that he's entirely out of his league. He barely makes sense when talking about public policy.
Newt Gingrich is playing a game of survival. He may well fill the vacuum when Cain finally fades as the leading Romney-alternative.
Finally, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann probably should have probably done what Jon Huntsman did -- skip the debate. While they certainly serve a purpose in taking shots at the frontrunners, it's clear they have no chance to move into that tier.
One more thing: Because there were so many heated exchanges that will be replayed over the next 48 hours, the perception of who did well could change significantly for those who didn't tune in tonight.
Taegan D. Goddard is the founder of Political Wire, one of the earliest and most influential political web sites.
Goddard spent more than a decade as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he was a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You
Won - Now What? (Scribner, 1998), a political
management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from
both parties. In addition, Goddard's essays on politics and public
policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers across the country,
including the Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe, San Francisco
Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and Christian Science
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University. He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.
PRAISE FOR POLITICAL WIRE
"There are a lot of blogs and news sites claiming to understand
politics, but only a few actually do. Political Wire is one of them."
-- Chuck Todd, NBC News political director
"Concise. Relevant. To the point. Political Wire is the first site I check when I’m looking for the latest political nugget. That pretty much says it all."
-- Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report
"Political Wire is one of only four or five sites that I check every
day and sometimes several times a day, for the latest political news
-- Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report
"The big news, delicious tidbits, pearls of wisdom -- nicely packaged, constantly updated... What political junkie could ask for more?"
-- Larry Sabato, Center for Politics, University of Virginia
"Political Wire is a great, great site."
-- Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe
"If I were on the proverbial
desert island and had only one web site to access, Political Wire would
-- Dotty Lynch, CBS News political consultant
"Taegan Goddard has a knack for digging out political gems that too
often get passed over by the mainstream press, and for delivering the
latest electoral developments in a sharp, no frills style that makes
his Political Wire an addictive blog habit you don't want to kick."
-- Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post
"Political Wire is one of the absolute must-read sites in the blogosphere."
-- Glenn Reynolds, founder of Instapundit
"I rely on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for straight, fair political news, he gets right to the point. It's an eagerly anticipated part of my news reading."
-- Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.
Send your tips, memos, comments and suggestions to