The first half of the first debate of the year was exhausting.  It started out with “nanny nanny boo-boo” accusations between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, immediately making me want to change the channel and watch ‘Dexter’ reruns instead.

Jon Huntsman did his usual Huntsman-type thing, making mini-speeches aimed only at garnering applause, which they rarely do.

(PLEASE, Mr. Huntsman—it’s time to follow Michelle Bachmann’s lead and give it up…)

Romney started out pretty strong, criticizing Obama more than the other candidates and each time one of the liberal commentators tried to get him to attack someone he redirected it back to Barack.  Gotta give Romney credit for that.

Speaking of Romney, the debate took a strange side trip into Crazy Land when George Stephanopoulos asked him if he thought states should ban contraceptives.

Even I had to replay the question—I had no idea what Stephanopoulos was talking about and neither did Romney, whose answer was basically ‘huh, what?’  George wouldn’t let up and kept asking his inane question, despite the fact that the audience, very silent until now, went nuts when Romney said it was a silly question.

After a break Diane Sawyer tried to throw some hardballs at the candidates regarding gay marriage.  It’s fascinating to me that Sawyer especially chose to ask the question since she’s so famous for being a softball-lobbing faux-journalist.  (Remember how she gushed all over the place when she interviewed Michael Jackson and his new “bride” Lisa Marie Presley?  Ugh….)

Sawyer tried to ‘warm and fuzzy’ everything by asking the candidates, “If a gay couple were in your living room, how would you explain they weren’t allowed to get married?”

Speaker Gingrich gave my favorite answer of the night when he turned her question around the other direction.

“I want to raise a point about the news media bias,” Gingrich said.  “You don’t hear the opposite question asked.  Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done.  Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry?  Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?  The bigotry question goes both ways and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side and none of it gets covered by the news media!”  (Applause)

Romney added, “As you can tell the people in this room feel that Speaker Gingrich is absolutely right and I do, too.  I was in the state where the Supreme Court stepped in and said marriage is a relationship required under the Constitution for people of the same sex to be able to marry and John Adams, who wrote the Constitution, would be surprised.  And it did exactly as Speaker Gingrich indicated.  What happened was Catholic charities, that placed almost half of all the adoptive children in our state, was forced out of being able to provide adoptive services…3,000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”

Regarding national security, Rick Perry said we should send troops back into Iraq to prevent Iran from taking over.  When Gingrich was asked if he agreed with Perry, he again garnered applause when he said no, that we should instead develop a strategy to replace the Iranian dictatorship.

“If you want to stop Wahhabism,” Gingrich said, “get an American energy policy so no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king and then you can put pressure on the Saudis because then you have enough American energy to stop them.”

Ron Paul seemed most passionate when talking about his pals in Iran.  I really wish someone would explain to me why he loves and trusts that country so much.  If it’s because he’s indebted to Code Pink for endorsing his candidacy, that would make more sense than him talking about how kind it was for us to help the Iranian fishing boat that got captured by pirates.  Of COURSE we’ll help an Iranian fishing boat filled with non-terrorist fishermen—it’s the non-fishermen Islamic terrorists we don’t trust, Dr. Paul…

Santorum said, “Well Ron, if we had your foreign policy there wouldn’t have been a fleet there to pick up the Iranian fishermen…”

Overall, in my opinion the top two in the debate were Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.  Newt again showed why he soars in the polls just after debates—he’s a GREAT SPEAKER.  It’s only after he’s out of sight awhile that other candidates start polling better.

Romney seemed to have learned from past debates by not attacking the other candidates and instead reminding everyone how horrible Barack Obama is.  I think this was his best debate.

Rick Santorum was my third favorite but I still don’t think he’s a very good debater.  I’m not sure exactly what it is about him, but I do worry about seeing him in a debate against Obama.  Like it or not, these things make an impact on voters and if Obama and his teleprompter are able to talk down our GOP nominee, we’re sunk.

Fourth was Rick Perry who did a very good job.  Too little too late?  Possibly.

Despite what the media (both left and right) are saying, I believe we do have some very good candidates.  They’re each very intelligent, decent people in many ways and they all realize how crucial this election is.

Romney summed it up by saying, “This election is about the soul of America.  The question is what is America going to be?  And we have in Washington today a president who has put America on a road to decline militarily, internationally, and domestically he’s making us into something we wouldn’t recognize.  We’re increasingly becoming like Europe.  Europe isn’t working in Europe; it’ll never work here.  The right course for America is to return to the principles that were written down in those first words in the Declaration of Independence:  ‘we were endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’  We have in this country the right to pursue happiness as we choose.  And as people pursue education, and work hard, and take risk, and build enterprises of all kinds, they lift themselves and don’t make us poorer, they make us better off.  The question is, are we going to remain an exceptional nation in the history of the earth.  That’s what’s at stake in this election.  We have a president that does not understand in his heart, in his bones, the nature of American entrepreneurialism, innovation and work and that is something which we’re fighting for in this election.  I hope the people on this stage share that vision but we must return America to the principles upon which it was founded if we’re ever going to have a strong balance sheet, a strong income statement, create jobs but have a bright future for our kids.”  (applause)

Gingrich classically responded saying, “I think that’s a good message and I agree with him, but it was a little bit harsh on President Obama, who I’m sure in his desperate efforts to create a radical European socialist model is sincere…”  (laughter)

So there ya go.