Grading Today’s Republican Debate

A messy food fight leaves no standout.

The Republican presidential candidates faced off in their final debate before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Things got heated right off the bat, and each of the candidates took a few blows.

Here’s how the candidates performed:

2. Rick Santorum: B+

(Source: Reuters)

He had a stand-out answer on gay rights, but he took some blows from Paul and the rest. He lost his momentum this weekend, and it’s probably not coming back.

4. Mitt Romney: B+

(Source: Reuters)

Romney largely withstood a barrage from the other candidates, but made several gaffes that are likely to come back to haunt him.

First, he implied that politics is only for the rich.

Then, he continued to attack Huntsman for serving under President Barack Obama, drawing a sharp retort from the former Ambassador to China that was well received by the audience.

Finally, he struggled to defend the ads against Newt Gingrich aired by his Super PAC.

That said, none of these were fatal errors — no one landed a blow on him from the right — and he’s still on track for a big victory on Tuesday.

6. Ron Paul: B

(Source: Reuters)

Ron Paul inexplicably continues to attack Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman. Why isn’t he attacking Mitt Romney?

8. Jon Huntsman: A-

(Source: Reuters)

Out in no-man’s land, Huntsman managed his strongest debate of the cycle. He landed a few blows on Romney — particularly when he called Romney divisive for attacking his service as Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.

He could see a jump in the polls over his performance today, but it may be too little, too late.

10. Newt Gingrich: B-

(Source: Reuters)

Gingrich finally landed one on Romney over the Super PAC ads, but he played the victim card instead of attacking Romney on substance. He didn’t do much to reverse his slide.

12. Rick Perry: C

(Source: Reuters)

He disappeared on stage and couldn’t land a real blow to anyone else. Then again, he was finally able to name the three Cabinet departments he wants to cut.

Don’t bet on a South Carolina surge after this one.

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