Jonathan, the fact that the Luntz focus group went so wild for Herman Cain is really a sign of the disastrous quality of this debate tonight. Picking him is in essence like picking “none of the above”—as the least credible person on the stage, with no record of actually securing any public support in an election, Cain is a novelty act. The fact that the novelty act may have “won” gives one a sense of how unimpressive the session was. And how unimpressive the field is: This is no different from the fact that a significant number of Republicans was expressing support last week for Donald Trump.
The real question is whether Tim Pawlenty did well enough to interest the big-dollar givers and bundlers he needs to help his campaign start to build momentum. It’s possible he did, but far from certain.