The Mitt Romney vs. Rick Perry “Who Won the Debate?” Tally

Last night’s GOP debate featured eight participants, but the show clearly centered on the two front-runners of the race. Perry, who currently leads in national polls, was tested on the big stage for the first time in the race. You could also say that Romney was “tested” for the first time, though he had attended a few debates already this year.

You don’t need to ask me to know who I think won the debate, the answer would be obvious. What I’d like to do is show how the media reporters and bloggers have responded instead, and provide a tally of what I found. I searched twitter, news feeds, anything and everything I could find that provided not just a recap of the debate, but instead some sort of opinion of who won the debate. Though there were a good number who put them at a tie, the remaining consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of Romney.

I tallied what I would call significant responses, meaning not people who work for, or were already leaning heavily towards, either camp. And they had to be someone of some sort of influence, ie. blogger, reporter, opinion leader etc. Results were not limited to just conservatives or pundits that I liked.

mitt romney rick perry debate

My tally:
For Romney: 16 news or blog articles, 7 tweets and 2 “other” factors
For Perry: 3* news or blog articles, and 3 tweets.

*One of the blog claims Perry won because “His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.” Not really a positive reason for winning. I’ll itemize all the results below. Let me know what I’ve missed – I’m sure more will come in throughout the day.

The Romney Round-up: (in no particular order)
1 – Mark Halperin of The Page: Halperin’s Take: Romney Wins, Perry Stumbles on SS
Grades: Romney A, Perry B+

[Romney’s] Main Thing]: Came prepared with clear stats and a good attitude. Showed he won’t back down in the face of the Perry surge. Smart enough to retreat after Perry’s Social Security flap, increasing the odds that it will be the story of the night. Once again, looked fit, at ease, and more like a president than anyone on stage–including his main competition.

[Perry’s] Main Thing]: Largely followed his advisors’ strategy: severe on Romney without being mean-spirited, solution-oriented when discussing the nation’s problems, adept at dodging unwelcome questions, appealingly loose and accessibly human. But his Social Security answer is sure to get a lot of scrutiny from the press, Democrats and Republicans (Romney included). The press will kill him on climate change, too. Not bad for a first debate, but second best is second best.

2 – Amy Walter of The Note: Analysis: Who Won the Republican Presidential Debate?

And, in that match-up, Romney came out the winner. He was confident and solid throughout the entirety of the debate, a benefit of being a two-time presidential candidate. He stuck to his strong points – economy and jobs – deftly sidestepped his weakness – healthcare – and took advantage of stumbles made by his main opponent Rick Perry.

Perry’s first outing on the GOP debate stage was decent, but inconsistent. He was like a boxer who comes out strong for the first two rounds, but then runs out of stamina by the later rounds.

3 – John Walter of Talking Points Memo: The Gist? Strategic win for Romney

There wasn’t quite as much pyrotechnics as one might have expected or as folks in the press probably would have liked. But on balance I’d say this was a strategic victory for Mitt Romney, even if it doesn’t show up immediately in the polls.

4 – LA Times Staff Opinion: GOP debate: Biggest winner, loser and missed opportunity

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Rick Perry. He needed to explain what he means when he calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Does he want to repeal it? Change it? We still don’t know.

Biggest winner: Mitt Romney. Looked and sounded presidential. Had a solid response to Perry on Social Security. Cited his 59-point economic plan about 59 times, but you would too, if you had produced a 59-point plan.

5 – Kyle Wingfield of the Atlanta Journal: GOP debate: Romney edges Perry, and the stage is set for a long, good contest

Mitt Romney won Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate over newcomer Rick Perry, but not by much. Based on what I heard and saw, we’re in for a long and compelling contest between the two candidates at the front of the pack.

Romney won, I thought, for two main reasons, both of them noteworthy but neither of them definitive at this point:

6 – Erick Erickson of RedState: Perry vs. Romney

First, I don’t think Perry had as strong a performance tonight as he could have. He stumbled several times. Romney had a stronger performance — the strongest of anyone on stage in fact.

7 – Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire: Reaction to the GOP Debate

It’s very clear Mitt Romney has done this before because he looked like a long distance runner compared to the other candidates on the stage. He won the debate, but only because Rick Perry stumbled badly on several questions. In fact, Perry’s doubling-down on his criticisms of social security may ultimately prove to be a fatal flaw as GOP primary voters gauge electability.

8 – Andrew Sullivan of The Dish: Live-Blogging The Third GOP Debate

9.57 pm. My take-away? Perry has proved himself an extreme, inarticulate, incurious W clone. He doubled down on the vicious attacks on social security; and his rhetoric was off-key. Huntsman emerged as an actual candidate; Romney kicked ass.

9 – Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register: GOP debate: Smooth Romney bests inexperienced Perry

Mitt Romney let some of the air out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s fast-rising balloon during tonight’s Republican presidential candidate debate.

Romney, a debate veteran, was serene, while Perry seemed nervous. Romney stayed on message — a strong focus on creating jobs and improving the economy — while Perry strayed into swampy side issues.

10 – Andrea Tantaros of the NY Daily News: GOP presidential debate: Mitt Romney stands out with attacks of Rick Perry, President Obama
Grades: Romney B+, Perry B

So while it was hardly by a large margin, Romney was Wednesday night’s winner. Despite his inability to explain or defend Romneycare in Massachusetts, he stayed consistent on other issues, demonstrated experience as a debater and candidate and successfully played not to lose.

11 – Chris Cillizza of The Fix: The Reagan Library Republican debate: Winners and Losers


* Mitt Romney: Slow and steady won the debate for the former Massachusetts governor. He started off a bit shaky and seemed slightly off his game when Texas Gov. Rick Perry went on the attack right from the start. But, Romney showed his experience and steadied himself as the proceedings wore on — repeatedly giving answers that sounded reasonable and, dare we say it, presidential. Romney continues to execute his strategy: focus on President Obama and the economy while avoiding too much back and forth with his Republican rivals. It worked (again) tonight.

* First 45 minutes Rick Perry: With all eyes on him, the Texas governor started out strong — delivering a solid answer on jobs and showing a willingness to mix it up with Romney. He was confident without being brash and seemed well versed — or at least well rehearsed — on the issues of the day. If the debate ended after 45 minutes, we might be talking about how Perry had dispelled all doubts about his readiness for the national glare of a presidential race and all it entails.


* Last Hour Rick Perry: After a strong start, Perry seemed to lose focus — meandering on his answer on Social Security and badly fumbling on climate change. Some of Perry’s struggles in the middle portion of the debate had to do with the fact that he was getting tough questions and having to weather a steady attack from his opponents — he joked at one point that he had become a “pinata” — but that’s what you get when you’re the frontrunner. Perry salvaged the second half of the debate with a very strong answer on the death penalty. But his uneven performance will likely keep the conversation about whether he is a clear frontrunner alive, which is not what the Perry forces wanted.

12 – Kirsten Powers of The Daily Beast: Rick Perry Falls Short

Gov. Rick Perry showed up to the MSNBC/POLITICO debate on Wednesday night wearing his “Mitt kickers” as expected, but Mitt Romney was hitting back. The two sparred over job creation and, most notably, Social Security.

Romney held his place in the top tier with a polished performance, while Perry didn’t live up to the hype. His answers were marked by a very Palin-esque wandering that left the viewer puzzled, as when he claimed that Texas has so many uninsured people because of the federal government. Huh?

13 – Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald: Debate was the Rick Perry Show, but Mitt Romney stole some of the spotlight

The tough-talking Texas governor introduced himself to the nation as pugnacious, proud, funny, genuine and disciplined. But he stumbled, too, tripped up by some of his own words as well as the barbs of his opponents and the moderators.

“I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party,” Perry said at one point in the thick of the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

Perry can expect more whacks.

Judging by Romney’s performance last night – cool, steady, earnest, knowledgeable – Perry won’t be a clear front-runner for long. Though Wednesday was the Rick Perry Show, Romney was the debate’s star.

14 – David Frum of The Frum Forum: Perry: Unprepared, Underwhelming

Just speaking personally, I was shocked and surprised at how unprofessional Perry’s debate performance was. Nervous, irritable, stuttering, floundering, he missed opportunity after opportunity.

(No mention of Mitt in this one, but I thought it relevant enough to include.)

15 – Fred Bauer of The Frum Forum: Romney Takes the Fight to Perry

There were great expectations for Perry going into this debate, which seemed like it would focus on testing him. Though Perry handled himself fairly well, I don’t think he landed a knockout blow. If anything, this debate perhaps strengthened Romney, as he was able to hit Perry from both the center (on Social Security) and the right (immigration). Tonight suggests that Perry is not invulnerable in the primary.

16 – Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight: Electability a Primary Liability for Perry
Grades: Romney A-, Perry B-

I’ve developed a habit — it’s probably a bad habit — of assigning letter grades to the Republican candidates based on my initial reaction to their performance in debates. After Wednesday night’s debate in Simi Valley, I gave Rick Perry a B-minus, meaning an average performance. Meanwhile, I gave Mitt Romney, his primary rival for the Republican nomination, a higher grade of A-minus.

The grades are based on neither style nor substance per se, but instead mostly on strategy.

17 – Note from Jayde: This is a BIG one from The Daily Beast written by Democrat strategist/attack dog Paul Begala: Mitt’s Best Night

“Romney was confident and smooth, running rings around Perry and the other participants. But don’t count Perry out. He’ll fight hard.” – Paul Begala

As George W. Bush might say, I may have misunderestimated Mitt Romney.

The often awkward and aloof campaigner was confident and smooth. This was his best debate performance of the 2012 campaign.

Rick Perry called himself the piñata at the party, but a piñata is full of candy—it has more substance then Perry. He seemed surprised that the standard applause lines that worked so well at Tea Party rallies fell somewhat flat at the debate. He was incoherent on health care: railing against Romney’s mandate but tripping over his own mandate requiring 12-year-old girls to receive the HPV vaccine. When Romney scolded him for savaging Social Security, he stumbled badly, jabbering incoherently about some distinction between “reasons” and “results.” Huh?

@BuddyRoemer: Romney won, Perry not as strong, Huntsman started strong, but weakened noticeably. Newt was good. No other candidate left an impression.

@DickMorrisTweet: #reagandebate #tcot #2012 Polls will likely show Perry down, Romney up, Cain up, Bachmann uncahnged, Newt up, Huntsmann up. Paul same

@JedediahBila: Lots of folks asking for my “winner.” Based purely on tonight’s debate *performance*, Mitt Romney.

@MurphyMike: Impact: press will grind Perry, which’ll cool his $ momentum and take 2-4% off him in Natl (noise meter) polls. Otherwise no change in race AND: Mitt should walk out of this debate thinking he can beat the Perry/Bach/Santorum axis in Iowa. Offense.

@KLSoltis: Have seen my Twitter feed shift from “Perry Won” to “Romney Won” over last 30 minutes. As a pollster, I wish I could quantify this.

@joanwalsh #maddow nailed it: Huntsman lost by not grabbing a single storyline. Perry: same as he ever was, too scary. Romney won by not losing.

@marcambinder: So the press thinks Romney won. I think so too. But what do early state GOP primary voters think? #reagandebate

Other possible indicators that Romney Won:
1 – Open and closing percentage chance for yesterday on Intrade Market: Romney open/close: 32.9% to 36.2% (+3.3%), Perry open/close: 39.0% to 36.0% (-3.0%) percentages may have changed since

2 – The search term ‘Mitt Romney’ was trending on twitter early this morning: mitt romney trending on Twitter

The Perry Round-up: (in no particular order)
1 – Stanley Kurtz of The Corner: Perry Leads

This was a very successful debate debut for Rick Perry. It confirms his position as the leader of the field. As of now, this race is a Perry-Romney duel, but Perry’s the one to beat. Romney and Perry were well matched tonight, but Perry’s appeal to the base means he’s got a leg up over Romney just by fighting to a draw, which he did at least, if not better.

2 – Avik Roy of Forbes: Why Rick Perry Won the GOP Debate at the Reagan Library

Texas Gov. Rick Perry refused to back down on his comments that Social Security was a “Ponzi scheme,” explaining that while it would be there for those at or near retirement, it was not sustainable for younger generations. He said politicians need to be willing to be “provocative” on the issue in acknowledging that the program was a “monstrous lie.”

Yet Mitt Romney played it safe, saying there needed to be tweaks to the program’s finances, but that it was wrong to call it a failure.

3 – Jonathan Chait of The New Republic: How Rick Perry Won the Debate

Yet Perry, stylistically, ruled the roost. The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions.

Romney feels compelled to bind himself to the parameters of the question before him. Perry ignores them.

(I think this should technically be counted in the ‘Romney wins’ tally, but oh well…)

@MediaLizzy: @bret_baier 1)Perry close 2) Romney. Losers: Bachmann, Cain #reagandebate

@secupp: So, if Perry won, does that mean that Romney lost, by default?

@DavidStrom: Perry is winning the debate, simply because every question gets back to being about his positions.

(The tweets for Perry aren’t that strong either, but believe me I searched far and wide.)


~Nate Gunderson

Nate owns and manages a small souvenir manufacturing business. He and his wife of 12 years have 2 children. Nate has been blogging for Mitt Romney since late 2006 and is co-founder and editor of
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About Nate Gunderson

Nate owns and manages a small souvenir manufacturing business. He and his wife of 12 years have 2 children. Nate has been blogging for Mitt Romney since late 2006 and is co-founder and editor of View Posts | View Profile
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16 Responses to The Mitt Romney vs. Rick Perry “Who Won the Debate?” Tally

  1. Gigi, Fort Lauderdale FL says:

    ROMNEY WON THE DEBATE! He came out swinging and looks very presidential!

  2. As much as I don’t like Andrew Sullivan, his response (#8) is my favorite. :)

  3. frozone says:

    I agree with the comment on #8. Perry comes across as an overly (falsely) confident boor. Not the dimmest of bulbs, but no shining star either. The contrast betwen Romney and Perry was pretty stark.

  4. frozone says:

    EFM again has a great synopsis of the differences between Obamacare and Masscare. Keep these talking points in mind (especially the balanced budget one):

  5. An excellent aggregate. I would add Prof. William Jacobson’s Legal Insurrection blog to the “Romney Wins” category:

  6. Crystalf says:

    “Last night, Perry was completely out of his depth on questions and attacks the he had to know were coming. If he can’t be prepared on an open book test how can we expect him to be prepared for the myriad of surprises that come at you when you are President of the United States.”

  7. Crystalf says:


    Mitt Romney
    “I may have misunderestimated Mitt Romney,” says Paul Begala at The Daily Beast. “Confident and smooth,” he ran circles around Perry, and turned in his best debate performance of the year. Yes, “in the first Perry-Romney faceoff, Romney won,” says Michael Gerson at The Washington Post. He was “easily the most presidential of the lot,” and surprisingly, he came off as “the more natural and authentic candidate” of the two frontrunners.

  8. Thanks for the updates guys. Keep ’em coming. I’ll update if I’m able.

  9. ccr says:

    se cupp tweet…..she’s a glenn beck gal……..SO, obviously will be “set up” Perry for success……..and “target” to minimize Mitt! Not a surprise!

    Boy! The spin is going around on the “need Tea Party support” people: Faux/Perry news, Beck radio and Blaze. (The only ones ‘ve been able to access today.)

    Thanks for posting all of these! Fantastic work!

  10. Crystalf says:

    Watch Dick Morris’ little video chat — he made a lot of sense — particularly about not wanting to hand Perry’s SS nonsense to Obama for campaign fodder

  11. Crystalf says:

    “During a commercial break, Perry walked up to Paul’s podium, physically grabbed Paul’s wrist, and pointed at Paul’s face with his other hand”

    Absolutely .. INCREDIBLE .. I can’t even articulate how OFFENSIVE this is to me. Like R Paul’s views on the issues or not, treating another candidate, particularly a “senior” (who, most of us with any breeding whatsoever, was taught to show respect to) like this is no short of .. HORRENDOUS. Seniors are going to come to dislike Perry for his “scariness” wrto SS, but seeing Perry, the brute, could send shockwaves through Florida especially(!)

  12. stuntman says:

    This is why Mitt Rommney Central is the best Mitt page in the entire county!

  13. nivram says:

    Mitt Romneys performance showed how strong he is to represent AMERICA as a strong nation..

  14. Mark says:

    Have to say that Perry is all hat and no cattle. Romney threw down last night!

  15. phyllis says:

    Romney won the debate…Perry is a hothead with a short fuse. The answer to Perry calling SSA a ponzi scheme was perfect. Anybody who understands politics realizes SSA is a huge problem…10,000 boomers a day are becoming SSA eligible. Reform SSA. Never ever put fear in seniors…actually stay on economy topic.