After the 10 p.m. break, there was a noticeable change in Mitt Romney's demeanor. He was no longer the smiling Mr. Charm, fancifully exchanging quips and barbs. He straightened up and tried to look presidential. No more humor.
The reason for this was Jon Huntsman.
Governor/Ambassador Huntsman, in his first national appearance, was a breath of fresh air. Looking straight into the camera, not bobbing and weaving, he answered questions forthrightly and with conviction, unadorned by superficial attempts to be a political chameleon. He rose above the fray, taking no pot-shots at his rivals. His closing statement was Churchillian. A man of substance and qualification. Nor was he a target of his competitors, for how can you criticize unassailable views?
He is of a breed not familiar to the rants of ultra-conservatives. To succumb to labels, he is a moderate Republican, reminiscent of Nelson Rockefeller and, yes, Ronald Reagan. The bitter irony of this is that, in the poisonous prevailing atmosphere of extremism, he may be viewed as too middle-of-the-road to succeed.
What a shame this would be. From my seat, he is the only Republican candidate who can unseat President Obama. It's still early. There's time for voter education. He has nothing to fear from public scrutiny. He's the right stuff. The Fox News Network completely ignored him in its post-debate comments. What more proof do you need?
Watch him. He's just getting started.