Jae C. Hong, Associated Press
The nation got its first look at Texas Gov. Rick Perry last night during the Republican national debate and not everyone was impressed with the GOP frontrunner. In fact, the political punditry thought former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came out of the debate on top.
How much that might help Romney remains to be seen.
"Perry was hardly the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan," wrote The Washington Post's Michael Gerson "(He) often seemed awkward, nervous and programmed. On several questions, he left an impression of policy shallowness. He showed hints of brittleness, snapping that Karl Rove is 'over the top.'"
Romney on the other hand was "the most presidential," and the "natural and authentic candidate," wrote Gerson. "(Romney) seemed more electable than anyone else on the stage. In the first Perry-Romney faceoff, Romney won."
The Post's Jonathan Bernstein was a bit more measured, "My sense, and my sense of what my Twitter feed was telling me, was that Perry had a lousy night, while Romney — as he has in each of these things — just outclassed the field."
The former governor of Massachusetts even received praise from a colunnist in Iowa — a primary state most commentators have already given to Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.
"Mitt Romney let some of the air out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's fast-rising balloon during Wednesday night's Republican presidential candidate debate," wrote Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register.
"Romney, a debate veteran, was serene, while Perry seemed nervous. Romney stayed on message — a strong focus on creating jobs and improving the economy — while Perry strayed into swampy side issues."
Obradovich pointed to an early exchange between the two candidates to make her case, as Perry tried to contrast the high job creation rate in Texas with lower job creation in Massachusetts while Romney was governor.
"The states are different. Texas is a great state," Romney fired back. "Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right-to-work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground. Those are wonderful things. But Gov. Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, why, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet."
After laughter and applause, an MSNBC's headline colorfully captured what came next, describing Romney and Perry locking horns:
"'Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,' Perry jabbed in the debate's opening moments, referring to one of Romney's Democratic predecessors as governor of Massachusetts.
"'As a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessors created jobs at a faster rate than you did," Romney shot back at Perry, the 10-year incumbent Texas governor."
That lively exchange was part of what thrilled David Chalian and Terence Burlij at the PBS NewsHour blog The Rundown.
"It is far more often the case than not that hyped political events don't live up to expectations," the pair wrote to open their coverage, "but Wednesday night's GOP debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., was the exception that proves the rule."
Chalian and Burlij gave Perry some good marks, but were left with one big question mark.
"Perry had a very simple mission," they wrote. "He needed to prove that he can withstand the scrutiny and the attacks, that he is tough enough to give as good as he gets, and that he is a viable general election candidate who can appeal to a broad swath of Americans and defeat President Obama in 2012.
"On the first two fronts, Perry clearly passed the test. He didn't buckle and seemed to relish the engagement with his opponents, specifically former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
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