The Iowa GOP debate highlights and lowlights

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Because there hasn't been in a debate between the GOP candidates for president in two months, America was reminded that there were several people running who really have no serious chance at the office, but are out there making their case. Is it hubris or just extreme belief in himself when Santorum said at one point last night, "If I'm President - no when I'm President."

No Rick, you had it right the first time. You will not be president. Not next year, and probably never. But props for exuding so much confidence in light of the fact that the last race you ran in a race you lost by 18 percentage points.

Let's review: the presumptive front runner in the race, Mitt Romney, skated last night, as none of the candidates dared to knock him off his game, save a moment that had little impact - Tim Pawlenty criticizing him for his universal health care plan in Massachusetts, two months after everyone realizes he should have done, including Pawlenty.

The big headlines this morning are focusing on the two Minnesota candidates who have the most at stake tomorrow in the Ames Straw Poll - and Tim Pawlenty was on the offensive, bashing Michelle Bachmann for what he called a record that lacks achievements

Can I admit I was surprised to see Newt Gingrich even up on the dais last night? The former House Speaker has ran a desultory campaign that is going absolutely nowhere, and he was called on that last night. Prepared for that embarrassment, Gingrich turned the table on Fox News' Chris Wallace, blasting him for asking a non-substantive question. It earned him a huge cheer from the Ames audience, but damned if he wasn't right.

Jon Huntsman made his debate debut yesterday, and it was an uneven performance, at best. Speaking before the biggest televised audience in his life in America, he had his moments, but let's be honest - his moderate brand of Republicanism, already in decline nationally, has no constituency in Iowa, which is why he's not campaigning there at all.

Ron Paul is expected to fare well at Saturday's straw poll, and his supporters were extremely vocal at last night's debate. His denunciations of American foreign policy, which were absolutely shocking to hear in GOP debates back in 2007, is now something that most Republicans are prepared for, though as the clip above with Santorum showed, he can still rattle some candidates with his commentary.

Paul's longtime criticism of the Federal Reserve has won him fans in recent years, with a lot more people in this country critical of that institution. What's somewhat surprising among the mainstream Republican candidates for higher office is why they don't support more of what Paul says in terms of his criticizing America's occupation in other countries in terms of what it is doing to our deficit.

Again, it makes you question how many of the candidates are really sincere about it being such a major problem, because if this country is serious about cutting back (including on defense) than some of our foreign policy expenditures should and must be scrutinized - they shouldn't get a pass. Paul says that passionately, and people look at him as a goof.

The next televised debate comes next month, when the candidates will have at least one other colleague joining them, as Texas Governor Rick Perry will make it official on Saturday that he's in the race.

To quote Emma Stone as she stares at the six-pack that Ryan Gosling is carrying when he takes off his shirt in the new comedy Crazy, Stupid Love, "Seriously?"

That expression had to be uttered in millions of households last night during the middle of the GOP Fox News-Washington Examiner televised debate, when moderator Bret Baier asked if there was any candidate who would walk away from a deal to reduce the deficit that would that would include 10 dollars of spending cuts to 1 dollar of tax increases.

All eight candidates raised their hands in unison, saying they would not accept that deal.

I look forward to hearing Mitt Romney explain what he was thinking of if he's in a debate from Barack Obama a year from now, for though that attitude about no new taxes, ever, obviously plays well in Iowa two days before a straw poll in early August of 2011, if all those candidates, including Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman really would walk away from that sweet deal, they obviously don't really care at all about coming to a compromise with Democrats on reducing entitlements, which would need to be a part of a serious deficit reduction deal.

That was the starkest moment of last night's debate, but there was plenty of other entertaining moments in last night's two hour affair from Ames, Iowa, such as this exchange on U.S. foreign policy between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum:

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