Thursday’s Republican presidential debate showed that the race is now down to a two-candidate contest, John McCain’s campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt said minutes after the candidates’ forum ended.
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are the only two with a chance, Schmidt said on MSNBC after the debate at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif.
“As the campaign progresses you will see an increasing focus on the two of them,” said Schmidt, the token Republican on the left-leaning channel’s after-debate show.
Romney, Schmidt said, “did a very good job. He was poised and made no mistakes.
“And Perry, for his first debate, did a decent job talking about the economy, jobs and his Texas record,” but he said he stumbled on other areas including immigration, national security and healthcare.”
Schmidt said that while Perry played well to his conservative base, calling President Barack Obama a liar and saying social security is a Ponzi scheme, his comments would not help when it comes time to face the president in November next year.
Schmidt predicted that Perry would win the Iowa caucuses, Romney would take the New Hampshire primary and then the real battle would begin in South Carolina.
The liberal guests on MSNBC all agreed that Perry and Romney were the winners of the debate while Michele Bachmann was the candidate who most lost out.
“Bachmann is fading if not falling,” said Chris Matthews, while Ed Schultz added, “she was not as smooth as in previous debates.”
But Ed Rollins, who this week quit as Bachmann’s campaign manager insisted she had done a good job. “She had a great night, but she can’t answer questions that weren’t asked.
“The show clearly was meant to be the Romney and Perry Show,” added Rollins, who continues to advise her campaign. “She came across as sharp and articulate.
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