The alumni hall at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire was the scene for tonight′s 2012 GOP Presidential debate. In attendance were first-timers Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, as well as veterans from last month′s debate in South Carloina of Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. The debate was sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, as well as by WMUR-TV and CNN, from which John King was the primary moderator. So who won the debate, if anybody?

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Perhaps a better question is who lost? At CNN′s website, one could watch the debate with a focus group chart providing instant reactions to the candidates and their answers. Republicans and Independents were scoring, and it was very interesting to see whom they favored. The scale ranged from 10 to 90, with 50 being neutral. Most candidates gave answers that scored positive, but those who garnered results between 70 and 90 were obviously more popular with the audience.

Mitt Romney had the most to lose and wound up fairing well. His latest defense and explanation on his positions on Romney-Care and Obama-Care scored high, pushing 90 or better. Apparently he may have finally gotten the right way to answer the critics on that subject. Herman Cain, who was the clear winner in the South Carolina debate last month, also did a good job. Most of his responses received high marks from both Republicans and Independents.

In the mid-range, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul stayed pretty consistent, generally at or near 70 on most of their answers. Paul′s responses to national security issues, such as with the War on Terror, saw dips from Republicans in the focus group. Santorum and Bachmann got some of their best numbers extolling the Tea Party and its principles. Another sign that the people understand the movement much more than the Mass Media does.

Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty had their moments, but generally speaking, both had the consistently worst reactions from the focus group. Newt showed that he knows the issues and has an answer for everything, though sometimes the answers went a tad long. Pawlenty appeared almost as the deer in the headlights. When he stuck with his core message of attacking Obama on the economy and other specific issues, he did okay. But there was little excitement or enthusiasm.

So, if I were to pick a winner for tonight′s GOP 2012 Presidential debate from New Hampshire, I would have to say it was a close call between Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Other than Ron Paul, Romney was the only one who had real presidential debate experience, and it showed. Herman Cain is certainly the gifted amateur, so I might be inclined to give him the edge on the margin as the winner. Of the rest of the pack, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it is a toss-up between Gingrich and Pawlenty for the night′s loser. Given events of last week, with Newt′s senior staff quitting en masse, I would have to say Gingrich was the biggest loser. He may be bright and have a lot of ideas, but the charisma and energy simply is not there. We can start the death-clock on Newt′s campaign. I doubt if he′ll last through July 4th.