MANCHESTER -- Before tonight's debate, expectations were running high for a giant pile-on, with frontrunner Mitt Romney at the bottom of the pile. Yet about a half hour into the debate, most of the backbiting has occurred over Romney's untouched head.1. Ron Paul stood by his ad attacking Rick Santorum as a "corrupt'' lobbyist and Washington insider. "You're a big spender, that's all there is to it,'' Paul said. When the microphone made a screeching noise, Santorum quipped, "It caught you not telling the truth, Ron.''
2. Rick Perry called Paul a "hypocrite'' for earmarking federal money and then voting against the overall spending plan.
3. Perry's campaign sent out a blast e-mail repeating the lobbyist attack on Santorum.
4. Gingrich and Paul got into a testy exchange, in which Paul defended labeling the former House Speaker a "chicken hawk'' for not serving in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, the barely scathed Romney kept his focus, as he has throughout the campaign, on President Obama. Minutes before the debate started, his campaign promoted a new Internet video, "Big Promises, Big Failures,'' that accused Obama of breaking his major campaign promises. He launched a broadside against Obama right from the get-go, saying he gets no credit for improvement in the economy, He pivoted back to Obama again when asked about a video that paints a dastardly portrait of his corporate experience, accusing the president of sweeping hostility toward free enterprise. And once more, back to Obama, when asked whether Jon Huntsman was right to say he had more foreign policy experience than anyone else on the stage, "He can do it a lot better than Barack Obama,'' Romney said graciously about his GOP rival.
Anyone still wondering how Romney, despite his many flaws, has retained his front-running position?