Two experts from the left-leaning Brookings Institution said they believe former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman won Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate handily, but not everyone observing the debate from a left-of-center perch was in agreement.

Tom Mann, a Brookings senior fellow of governance studies, said Huntsman was “by far the most impressive participant in the Republican debate.”

“He was the only one,” Mann said in an emailed statement, before bashing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s policy positions. “Yet the debate is unlikely to change the reality that he is a complete mismatch with the current Republican party, which is dominated by social and economic conservative populists.”

Bill Galston, another Brookings senior fellow of governance studies, echoed Mann’s remarks. “John [sic] Huntsman emerged as an attractive personality — clear, focused, relaxed, humane, and rational,” Galston said in a statement. “He would have been a leading candidate in the Republican Party of the 1970s and 1980s. Republicans now face a choice between an unyielding Tea Party conservative and a mainstream conservative who may be more electable.”

While Galston and Mann think Huntsman emerged victorious, MSNBC political host Rachel Maddow admitted she thinks President Obama’s former ambassador to China made a poor showing.

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