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Duel in the desert: Notes from GOP debate No. 10 at the Venetian

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Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann are introduced before the GOP presidential debate sponsored by CNN on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, at the Venetian.
Photo: Sam Morris

Is this a Republican debate or the fifth Die Hard movie?

If it’s the former, why did CNN hire a movie trailer voice-over guy to say the debate was taking place in “a city where dreams are made … and crushed”? And why did they have him say it over generic action-movie trailer music, which played as Anderson Cooper introduced the seven candidates?

I’m being facetious. It’s because this was a Vegas debate. It reeked of Vegas. You had (former) Mayor Goodman doing pre-show commentary, Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular lead Anthony Crivello singing the national anthem, and cutaway shots to Wayne Newton and Sheldon Adelson. But even these local celebs couldn’t steal the spotlight from the candidates.

Props to Rick Perry for not punching Mitt Romney in the face. I’m not saying Romney did anything to deserve a punch; I’m saying that Perry spent the whole debate looking as if he wanted to hit Romney. But he resisted. Very big of him.

Of course, Perry took plenty of verbal shots at Romney, but every single one backfired. Yet Perry kept on attacking. Did he think those were boos of agreement?

Romney, by comparison, glistened. I’m thinking he’s spent the past four years doing mock debates. He knew exactly when to respond to Perry’s jabs, when to keep his mouth shut and when—I’ll use Romney’s metaphor here—to let Perry hang himself.

Gingrich’s intro: “I’m Newt Gingrich, and unlike the President, I’m happy to be here in Las Vegas.” Not bad.

Bachmann’s intro line: “This is one night I hope what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas!” Brilliant, Michele! Did Jay Leno, Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia team up to write that one for you?

And hey, Herman Cain: When Perry says, “Herman, I love you, brother,” and “I’ll bump plans with you, brother,” he’s demonstrating how unracist he is. Convinced?

See you all in Rochester, Michigan for debate No. 11!

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