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GOP debate, round 4: The night's best salesman, gadfly and overall performance

October 11, 2011 |  7:53 pm

Debate-group-shot

Tonight’s GOP debate scorecard:

Loser: Rick Perry -- again. The Texan plummeted in polls after uncertain performances in earlier debates; he needed to land some punches and, more important, sound more like a president than a governor. He failed on both counts. Asked to outline his economic plan at a long-scheduled debate over economic policy, he promised a little lamely to unveil something in the next few days. What, the dog ate his homework?

Winner: Mitt Romney -- again. Many conservatives don’t love the former Massachusetts governor and probably never will. But he sure knows how to take a question and turn it in the direction he wants. And he’s getting pretty good at the Ronald Reagan gambit: sounding conservative without frightening voters in the center. Obama won’t enjoy running against him one bit.

Best salesman: Herman Cain. He seized every opportunity to tout his 9-9-9 plan (and as you surely know by now, that means a 9% income tax, a 9% corporate tax and a 9% sales tax).  Does the plan make sense? Not really. But as Cain pointed out, it’s a lot easier to remember than Romney’s 59-point blueprint.

Sharpest gadfly: Newt Gingrich. He can’t run a presidential campaign, but he’s a wickedly effective polemicist. His Fox News contract, suspended for now, beckons.

Best overall performances: Panelists Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post and Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News. They asked tough, smart questions that put all the front-runners -- Romney, Perry and Cain -- on the defensive. Some partisans will complain, but it’s exactly what panelists are supposed to do. As Harry Truman said: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

RELATED:

Live coverage: GOP debate at Dartmouth College

GOP debate, round 3: It's Romney's night, not Perry's

GOP debate, round 2: The night's winner, loser, survivor and comeback

GOP debate, round 1: Biggest winner, loser and missed opportunity

--Doyle McManus

Photo: Republican presidential candidates and journalists gather before a presidential debate sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post held at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday. Jon Huntsman, left; Michele Bachmann; Rick Perry; Julianna Goldman; Herman Cain; Karen Tumulty; Mitt Romney; Charlie Rose; Ron Paul; Newt Gingrich; Rick Santorum. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg 

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