Here is who won - and lost - the first major Republican debate broadcast by CNN from Manchester, N.H., Monday night. It is guaranteed accurate to three decimal places.
FIRST PLACE: Mitt Romney
Analysis: Winner without a doubt. Nobody laid a glove on him, not even for his flip-flop on abortion. Why not? Because they are a-skeered of him, that's why not! He might not make them his vice president! Plus, he can buy and sell them. They are but dust beneath his $600 shoes. He could afford to be gracious, saying things like, "The ideas Tim (Pawlenty) described are in the right wheelhouse." But nobody stuck one in Mitt's wheelhouse, not even for chickening out of the Ames Straw Poll.
And they could have rattled him. Romney has a tendency to choke at big moments: His 2008 announcement speech was the worst of his campaign, his speech on religion was second-rate, and his PowerPoint presentation in May on health care was a joke. But what a good night Romney had Monday. He even felt confident enough to channel a little Ronald Reagan.
Romney: "Mr. President, lay down plans to balance this budget!"
Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
See what I mean? Presidential! Advice to GOP pack: You better make plans to stop this guy in the next debate or you might never stop him.
Score: 94.863 (out of 100)
SECOND PLACE: Michele Bachmann
Analysis: Stop laughing. This was her first major introduction to America (or at least that part of America not watching the Stanley Cup Finals, "The Bachelorette" or "How I Met Your Mother"), and she did not say anything embarrassing or scary (See: Herman Cain.)
Yeah, I know. She looked silly when she said to John King: "I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight. I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today." Wow, stop the presses. (Do they still have presses?)
But she was firm and direct, unlike some others. (See: Tim Pawlenty.) "As president of the United States, I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare," she said. "It's a promise. Take it to the bank, cash the check. I'll make sure that that happens."
THIRD PLACE: Sarah Palin
Analysis: She doesn't show up for the debate, but she gets praised anyway! Tim Pawlenty says, "Palin would have been a great president." Keep talking like that, Timbo, and she'll get her chance. Unlike Jon Huntsman, who also did not debate, Palin doesn't need TV to build her name ID. If she runs, she is top tier from Day One. More advice to the GOP pack: Better take her down before that happens, knuckleheads.
FOURTH PLACE: Rick Santorum
Analysis: Didn't screw up. "I think the tea party is a great backstop for America," he said. "It is absolutely essential that we have that backbone to the Republican Party going into this election." See, the guy know how to pander. And if you can't pander, you can't be president.
FIFTH PLACE: Ron Paul
Analysis: No, he is not crazier than a bedbug. You just think so because you are not a Libertarian. Or a bedbug. Libertarians don't believe in small government, they believe in virtually no government. So Paul is both for legalizing heroin and bringing all our troops home from foreign wars. Was his high point probably the last presidential election, where he went nowhere, and not this presidential election, where he will go really nowhere? Yes. And besides, how many presidents have we had with two first names? (Besides James Madison, Andrew Jackson and John Tyler.)
SIXTH PLACE: Tim Pawlenty
Analysis: Tim, listen to me. No, come closer. Closer. There. IF YOU ARE GOING TO ATTACK ROMNEY FOR "OBAMNEYCARE" ONE DAY, THEN DO IT THE NEXT! Why will people elect a pale imitation of Romney if they can vote for the real thing? You need to be the un-Romney, however you choose to define that. And write this in big letters in your briefing book for the next debate: Don't grovel! Grovelers don't get to be vice president. Not anymore.
SEVENTH PLACE: Newt Gingrich
Analysis: After the worst start of any (semi) serious presidential candidate in recent memory, Newt had to wow the crowd Monday night, and he didn't do so. He had to stop people from staring at him and thinking: "A $500,000 bill at Tiffany's? A trip to Greece? His staff fires him?" And he didn't do it. I will admit that when John King asked him to choose between "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars," Newt chose "American Idol" quickly and decisively. But that is probably because "Dancing With the Stars" turned him down.
EIGHTH PLACE: Herman Cain
Analysis: You would think that it would be a real battle for last place in this field, but Cain wins hands down for his appalling anti-Muslim statements. Asked about a previous statement that he would not appoint a Muslim to his Cabinet, Cain replied that he never said that, only that he would not be "comfortable" appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet.
"And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us," Cain said. "And so, when I said I wouldn't be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one. Secondly, yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts."
Incoherent nonsense? Yes, but that's not so bad considering this was a debate. But Cain's response was hateful, incoherent nonsense.
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.com.