New Hampshire GOP debate belonged to Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann used the occasion of the debate to announce that she is definitely running for president. As for front-runner Mitt Romney, no competitors inflicted damage on his campaign.
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The Minnesota congresswoman and leader of the House Tea Party Caucus had telegraphed a campaign for weeks, but she made it official in her opening statement – triggering the early headline of the evening. Ms. Bachmann then delivered a strong debate performance, articulating her conservative views, demonstrating her status as an activist member of the House, and introducing herself to voters.
The most eye-popping point on Bachmann’s résumé: She and her husband have been foster parents to 23 children, in addition to raising five children of their own. She pointed this out twice Monday night.
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The second winner of the evening was Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. The early front-runner for the Republican nomination could have faced “incoming” from other contenders, particularly over his Massachusetts health-care reform – a model for President Obama’s reform – and his changed views on abortion. But the six other candidates on stage took a pass.
Instead, former President Reagan’s 11th Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” – got a good workout. And Mr. Romney was allowed to look calmly in command and to repeat his explanation for why “Romneycare” was a legitimate initiative at the state level but not an appropriate model for the entire country.
“Ours was a state plan, a state solution, and if people don't like it in our state, they can change it,” Romney said. “That's the nature of why states are the right place for this type of responsibility. And that's why I introduced a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a state-centric program.”
One big question of the evening was whether former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would go after Romney on health care. On “Fox News Sunday” the day before, he had coined the term “Obamneycare,” a ready-made sound bite to fling again at the front-runner, this time to his face. But Mr. Pawlenty backed away, despite the efforts of moderator John King of CNN to spark a fight. “Minnesota nice” prevailed again, as it had in the first debate on May 5.