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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

June 13, 2011

Bachmann's Greatest Hits

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%


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

Democrats (41 votes)

  • Pawlenty  30%
  • Gingrich  19%
  • Bachmann  16%
  • Paul  12%
  • Romney  7%
  • Santorum  7%
  • Cain  5%


Republican Insiders thought that Pawlenty, who many see as Romney’s biggest threat right now, erred when he seemed to distance himself from his critique of Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts and "Obamneycare." “Who is going to write a check to the guy who pulls his punches?” asked one GOP Insider. “He looked foolish in the beginning by disowning ‘Obamney-care’ and lacked confidence,” said another. “Missed an opportunity to join Romney as a cut above the other candidates,” said a third. 

And when asked whether candidates had helped or hurt themselves the most in the debate, a whopping 78 percent of the Republican Insiders said that Bachmann had helped herself while only 9 percent said she hurt herself (the rest said neither). Romney also scored well on this question; 80 percent said he helped himself with his performance. At the same time, and by a narrow margin, 44 percent of the GOP Insiders thought Pawlenty hurt himself compared to 38 percent who thought he helped himself. “Romney made it through without a scratch; Michele Bachmann actually beat expectations, Pawlenty wimped out at engaging Mitt,” said one GOP Insider. “The rest were just there on the stage.”

From National Journal:
SCENE: Candidates Sound Off

Key Takeaways From the Debate

PICTURES: Five Milestones to Iowa

More Weiner Photos, More Democratic Angst

Democratic Insiders also gave a generous nod to Bachmann—70 percent said she helped herself while only 21 percent said she hurt herself. Romney was another net gainer on this question: 58 percent helped, only 12 percent hurt. “Romney met but didn’t exceed expectations,” said one Democratic Insider. “Bachmann showed she can compete in a narrow format.”

Overall, the GOP Insiders said that all of the candidates except for Pawlenty and Texas Rep. Ron Paul helped themselves more than they hurt themselves with their debate performance—although with Paul, a majority said he neither helped nor hurt himself. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign staff recently resigned en masse, got a bit of good news tonight: 49 percent of the Republican Insiders thought he helped himself in the debate while only 20 percent said he hurt himself.

The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of political operatives, strategists, campaign consultants, and lobbyists in both parties. Below are the names of the Republican and Democratic Insiders who were surveyed for the debate:

Republican Insiders: Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Tom Cole, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Steve Duprey, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innoconzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.

Democratic  Insiders: Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bill Lynch, Bob Maloney, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O’Donnell, Scott Parven, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Wendy Sherman, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Katrina Swett Sarah, Swisher, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.

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