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2012: Debate wrap

The front page from the New Hampshire Union Leader: “7 contenders keep it civil.” From the story: “The seven candidates for president – U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota used the debate to officially announce her candidacy – continuously attacked the president on health care, spending and taxes, but also continued to avoid any pointed attacks on each other. ‘Any person on this stage would be a better president than President Obama,’ said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader: “GOP debate: Candidates blast Obama, but avoid attacking each other.”

“Given opportunities to critique one another’s stances, the seven competitors repeatedly deflected the questions to attacks on the president,” the Washington Post adds.

The New York Times: “The spotlight was trained squarely on Mitt Romney… But his rivals treaded lightly, and he relentlessly turned the conversation back to Mr. Obama, emerging unscathed from his return to the debate stage four years after losing his first bid for the party’s nomination.”  

The Washington Post’s Balz says Romney “easily survived” the debate. “In his first debate of the campaign, the nominal front-runner for the GOP nomination seemed eager for the spotlight. Through two hours of questioning, he delivered a steady performance, made no obvious errors and stuck to his campaign game plan of focusing his message on the president and the economy.”

“Republican White House hopefuls assailed President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy from the opening moments of their first major debate of the campaign season Monday night and pledged emphatically to repeal the administration’s year-old health care law,” the AP writes. “In general, the Republicans on stage steered away of criticizing one another, and even the evident differences among them were expressed in muted terms.”

For viewers who live in New Hampshire, last night’s debate featured many ads highlighting Democratic opposition to Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system, the liberal-leaning Web site Talking Points Memo writes. In addition to ads already being run by the left-leaning group Protect Your Care, two other groups – the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America – also ran Medicare-themed ads last night.

BACHMANN: Michele Bachmann’s “unpredictable edge was on display during Monday night's GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire when, out of the blue, she announced that she had filed papers to be an official candidate for the Republican nomination,” the AP writes.

The New York Times writes that Michele Bachmann showed herself last night to be not just a proxy for Sarah Palin, but potentially a more preferable candidate than Palin to some Republican voters.

“In a debate also notable for the quietly confident performance of front-runner Mitt Romney and the unwillingness of his rivals to target him with any kind of ferocity, Bachmann electrified the audience with folksy references to her personal history and an unwavering attack on President Obama’s stewardship of the economy and the federal government,” the Washington Post writes.

CAIN: Fact-checking website PolitiFact rated Herman Cain’s denial that he would appoint a Muslim to his cabinet “pants on fire.” Noting that Cain said on the Glen Beck his comments, made to several different organizations were “misconstrued,”  Politifact writes, “[C]ontrary to his claim on Beck’s program, Cain did say he would not have Muslims in his Cabinet. Not once or twice, but three times in as many weeks to ThinkProgress.org, Cavuto and Fischer.”

GINGRICH: When asked about his calling Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan “radical” on Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said he supported the plan as a “general proposal” and said his words on the program were “taken totally out of context.” He also, however, “called for his party to have a longer conversation with the voters about Medicare, even if that means they have to ‘slow down’ the pace of action on the Hill,” Politico writes.

The Boston Globe’s Weiss writes of Gingrich’s campaign trail “shock,” that “he hasn’t run for competitive office in more than a decade. He’s been busy working at think tanks, speaking to friendly conservative groups, and making documentaries about Ronald Reagan. [University of New Hampshire professor Dante] Scala said Gingrich reminds him of Rudy Giuliani, who barely visited New Hampshire in 2008, convinced that his aura would carry him through.”

“Missing from Monday night's debate was a discussion regarding the state of Newt Gingrich's campaign,” ABC writes, although Gingrich’s daughters did defend their father’s campaign after the debate. “Newt’s going to run Newt’s campaign. We of all people know him very, very well,” his daughter Kathy Lubbers said. His daughter Jackie Cushman also defended Gingrich’s relationship with his wife Calista and their tendency to make campaign decisions as a couple. “The fact is Newt Gingrich is the candidate. They’re a great couple. He, like many husbands, like mine and I’m sure like my sisters, actually consult with their spouse,” Cushman said.

PAWLENTY: Tim Pawlenty campaign manager Nick Ayers told reporters in the “spin room” after the debate that Pawlenty did not re-use his “Obamneycare” comment because mangers don’t “program in answers on a candidate’s brain,” Politico writes.

PERRY: The New York Times writes that Rick Perry probably benefits most from what was widely seen as a weak performance by Tim Pawlenty who declined to assail Romney’s health care plan or repeat his nickname for it, “Obamneycare,” when the former Massachusetts governor was present. “Given that Mr. Pawlenty is treading water in polls… Republican elites may be wondering whether he will “click” with voters… If Mr. Perry can instead play the role of ‘generic Republican’— only with better hair and more fundraising prowess — their support could shift toward him.”

ROMNEY: The Boston Globe’s top story: “GOP debaters target Obama, not Romney.”

“Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who leads in the early polls and fundraising efforts, had a surprisingly easy two hours Monday night. He looked calm and steady, criticizing President Barack Obama on the economy and health care while rarely being forced on the defensive despite some well-known vulnerabilities of his own,” the AP writes.

In National Journal’s post-debate analysis, Reid Wilson writes that Mitt Romney succeeded last night in “own[ing] it” when it comes to his record. “He stood up for Commonwealth Care, and he even embraced his Detroit bankruptcy op-ed. Everyone knows Romney's the target, but no one has taken aim yet.”

While he didn’t necessarily stand out, the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich writes, Romney remained  “unruffled. In his first televised debate, national poll-leader Mitt Romney had a target on his back. The former Massachusetts governor emerged with nary a hair out of place, even though at least three questions invited other candidates to attack him on health care, his past abortion position and his opposition to the auto industry bailout.”