Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party co-sponsored the first GOP debate of the 2012 presidential race last night, and there were several conspicuous absences. Namely, just about anyone who has a chance at winning the party’s nomination. We heard from big name also-rans like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum and a few no names like Herman Cain, the former owner of the Godfather Pizza Chain. Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota Governor, may have been the only viable candidate on the dais, since Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee and Michelle Bachmann all declined the invitation. So who came out ahead and who fell to the back of the pack? Can any of these candidates topple President Barack Obama? And with most of the big fish not showing up, are we seeing a rift in the usually stalwart Republican Party?
Jon Fleischman, Republican strategist; founder and publisher of FlashReport.org