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EXCLUSIVE: Political Insiders Give Debate Nod to Romney, Bachmann EXCLUSIVE: Political Insiders Give Debate Nod to Romney, Bachmann

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EXCLUSIVE: Political Insiders Give Debate Nod to Romney, Bachmann

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the winner of the first major presidential debate tonight according to a survey of Republican and Democratic political operatives, campaign consultants, and party strategists, in a special National Journal Political Insiders Poll conducted tonight. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann also had a good evening.  

Asked who was the “biggest winner” in the debate, a slim majority of Republican Insiders picked Romney. Roughly one-third of the Democratic Insiders concurred.



Who do you think was the biggest winner of the debate?

Republicans (54 votes)

  • Romney  51%
  • Bachmann  21%
  • Pawlenty  9%
  • Gingrich  7%
  • Cain  4%
  • Santorum  4%
  • Paul  0%



Who do you think was the biggest winner of the debate?

Democrats (41 votes)

  • Romney  35%
  • Bachmann  26%
  • Pawlenty  12%
  • Santorum  12%
  • Cain  5%
  • Gingrich  5%
  • Paul  2%


Republican Insiders thought that Romney was a winner tonight in large part because none of his rivals were able to land any blows that damaged the party’s nominal front-runner. “When you are in the lead every day your opponents don’t knock you back is a good day,” said one GOP Insider. “Made no mistakes, seemed comfortable, and confident,” said another.

Romney also won points when he was able to deflect criticism that the health care reform plan that he helped enact in Massachusetts inspired the national health care reform passed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. “Handled tough questions effectively, asserted his frontrunner status,” said one GOP Insider. “Mitt didn’t take on any water, remains frontrunner,” said another.


Bachmann also won points, surprising some Insiders who had lower expectations for the rookie on the national stage who chose the debate to make her formal declaration as a presidential candidate. “Helped herself, articulate, on message,” said one GOP Insider.

Democratic Insiders were not as bullish on Romney tonight but they concurred with Republican Insiders that Romney emerged from the debate without any permanent scars. “Romney acted like the front runner and resisted all attempts to knock off message; he’s still the one to beat,” said one Democratic Insider. “The level of debate was higher than I expected,” acknowledged another Democratic Insider. “Romney did not win every question, but he did present himself as the front-runner in the nature of Walter Mondale. Steady and gray. Some may sprint ahead, but slow and steady can win this primary race.”

Democrats thought Bachmann also delivered a strong performance. “Strong, direct answers, great presence, the guys better look out,” said one Democratic Insider.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty did not have such a good night. A slim plurality of Republican and Democratic Insiders thought he was the biggest loser of the evening.

Who do you think was the biggest loser of the debate?


Republicans (47 votes)

  • Pawlenty  26%
  • Cain  19%
  • Gingrich  12%
  • Romney  11%
  • Santorum  7%
  • Bachmann  4%
  • Paul  4%
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