Mitt Romney's four remaining rivals are running out of time to stall his glide path to the Republican nomination. And after tonight's Fox News debate in front of a feisty Myrtle Beach crowd, Romney solidified his standing, demonstrating his economic fluency and assertiveness on a strong American foreign policy. Outside of inside-baseball tweaks about his position on felon voting rights and campaign finance law, he was barely nicked by his rivals.
Romney's challengers all performed well, but none stood out - and, more importantly, none established themselves as the clear conservative alternative to the Republican front-runner. Santorum failed to capitalize on the endorsement from evangelical leaders by making his case as the social conservative. Gingrich failed to capitalize on his argument against Romney's record at Bain Capital, pulling his punches when offered the opportunity at the debate's outset. Perry failed to capitalize by contrasting his executive record with the legislative backgrounds of Gingrich and Santorum.
And no one took on Romney over his health care plan in Massachusetts, a consistent vulnerability of his that hasn't been exploited.
The top nine analyses from the night's debate:
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