Almost unanimously. Fred had the highlights and no one laid a glove on Huck, so what gives? It may be that the negative press lately for Huck is starting to penetrate and translating into Mitt looking more substantive by comparison. Plus, he laid off the quips, which neutralized his natural advantage at these things; combine that with the fact that people were looking more closely at his answers in light of his new status — especially the one about health care, which sounded suspiciously universal-friendly — and you may have a sense of why the word “Huckabomb” is uttered here.

Geraghty calls it the worst debate ever. Let the focus group’s opinion of the moderator be your guide as to why.

Update (Bryan): I have to agree with Geraghty, this was the worst debate yet. Fred scored points with me and a whole lot of others by refusing to stick with its format. If he treats Washington’s playas with similar disdain he will achieve greatness as president.

I think overall Romney won this one, though, by taking what the debate format gave him. He didn’t have to go on the attack against Huckabee, and just delivered crisp answer after crisp answer to every issue. It helped him that Rudy and McCain all but failed to show up and Huckabee left his trademark sense of humor at home, but Romney could still have fumbled somewhere. He didn’t. This debate played up finesse, unflappability and issue command by the bullet point, which are Romney’s strengths. If you want a national CEO, Romney’s your candidate. This debate should help him.

Huckabee may start to slide after this one. Imho he came across less like a candidate and more like a second-rate preacher at invitation time. Too emotional. Too personal. A little too, I don’t know, treacly I guess. His tone just didn’t work for me. I want a national CEO with some of the slaptastic irascibility of Fred. A president who “feels my pain?” Do Not Want.

Tags: Mitt Romney