I ended up working and attending the debate here in Washington last night; it was an interesting experience. Saw Steve Hayward briefly as he was coming in; he beat me to sharing his notes on the debate over at Power Line
. Do read them. The most interesting part of being there in person was gauging audience and candidate reactions. Some things are small--such as Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman being the only ones remaining on stage during breaks, while Michele Bachmann was always running back onto the stage at literally the last second--and others big. The reactions of the live audience are important to shaping the tone of the room. When Cain made his "Blitz" mistake about Wolf Blitzer, the crowd struggled to hold in their laughter, and it was the prolonged giggling that finally clued Cain into his mistake a little while into his answer and allowed him to correct himself. Answers from Perry, Santorum, and Cain most often seemed to elicit eye-rolls, head-shakes, and uncomfortable shifting in the seats. Responses from Gingrich, Paul, Huntsman, and Romney tended to draw the most support, with Paul also receiving his own fair share of eye-rolls in the midst of applause for him.
One of the most interesting exchanges of the night was on the immigration question. Gingrich managed to address it far, far better than Perry has been struggling to over the past few months, and the crowd reacted well to it--Newt's immigration answers drew a lot of applause from the audience. Thought that was interesting. Overall, it was a good night for Gingrich and he'll hold onto his place as the non-Romney candidate for now. Perry and Cain, meanwhile, both continued to have bad nights as they exhibited a sore lack of preparation for addressing foreign policy. I shared some of my real-time notes and pictures over on Twitter
. This was the eleventh debate of the primary season; we have three more to go before the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd, and five more before the New Hampshire primary on January 10th.