CNN, in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, sponsored the second debate on foreign policy in ten days. Here's our take on the winners and losers from Tuesday night.
Success begets success. Newt has done well in past debates and it has helped him in the polls. With his polling success, moderators gave him more airtime, which allowed the one-time afterthought and current front-runner to show off his debating skills. He took a risk by going against conservative Republican orthodoxy on immigration, and that could backfire, but overall Gingrich showed that he has been thinking about these issues for decades. And since it was a debate focused on foreign policy, no one asked him about his relationship with mortgage giant Freddie Mac and the $1.6 million he earned, which also helped the former House speaker.
As the former ambassador to both China and Singapore, Tuesday's national security debate was Jon Huntsman's moment to shine. And for the most part, he succeeded: Huntsman, who touted throughout the debate his experience living abroad, presented clear policy positions on Pakistan and Afghanistan - at one point getting into a heated debate with Mitt Romney over the Afghan troop drawdown ¬- and even managed to bring the conversation back around to the American economy. Perhaps for the first time in the campaign, the former Utah governor was able to set himself apart from the rest of the GOP crowd.
This was the Texas lawmaker's strongest debate, getting lots of airtime and challenging many of his rivals about U.S. foreign policy. His views are not in the mainstream of Republican orthodoxy, but he is consistent in his beliefs and not afraid to tell voters what he really thinks. His fundraising numbers could go up in the short-term, based on his debate performance Tuesday night, even if long-term it may be hard for him to broaden his support.
Despite having largely been written off as a major player in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Rep. Michele Bachmann delivered a strong performance in Tuesday's debate, demonstrating her confidence discussing policy issues, and taking her competitors to task when they faltered. In a heated exchange with Rick Perry over providing aid to Pakistan, the Minnesota lawmaker blasted the Texas governor for what she described as his "highly naïve" take on the issue; later, she sparred with Newt Gingrich for his stance on immigration. Whether or not Bachmann's performance was strong enough to get her back in the game remains to be seen - but she certainly earned more screen time than in recent debates.
Romney had one of his worst performances of the 11 debates so far, but he still managed to do fairly well. Romney is a front-runner for a reason: he has been running for president for five years and that practice has paid off for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney skillfully turned questions about foreign policy into answers about domestic issues where he was able to contrast his own positions with those of President Obama, cementing the idea that this race is going to come down to Romney and one other candidate.
Rick Santorum is still widely considered a long-shot candidate, but he earned his fair share of airtime in Tuesday's debate. And while the former Pennsylvania senator may not have said much to change how America feels about him - he endorsed racial profiling Muslims and mistakenly referred to Africa as a country - he made his best effort to make his way back onto the public's radar.
Herman Cain did not have the standout moment he needed to prove to voters he has a command of foreign policy. After surging in the polls, Cain's campaign has lost momentum in recent days, most notably after stumbling over a question regarding Libya. The only memorable moment from Cain in this debate came when he flubbed debate moderator Wolf Blitzer's name, calling the CNN anchor "Blitz."
The Texas governor took some bold positions during this debate, but his policy stances were vigorously challenged by his colleagues. Perry almost seemed to immediately backtrack on the tough stance he took against foreign aid to Pakistan after Michele Bachmann called his position "naive." Perry was also on the defense when other candidates -- Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Ron Paul -- said they disagreed with Perry's assertion that the U.S. should consider a no-fly zone over Syria.