I didn't watch the GOP debate, so I'm mostly forming these thoughts from reading the conventional wisdom that is floating around the blogosphere. The consensus seems to be that the big winners last night were Romney and Bachmann, and the loser was Tim Pawlenty. To me, that means there is one winner: Mitt Romney. And, much to my surprise, he seems to be committing to the "one sane man" strategy, hoping that the rest of the GOP field shreds itself apart appealing to the Tea Party and Romney ends up shooting up the middle on the strength of the remaining moderates plus folks who still understand that electability is a thing.
Folks keep saying that Bachmann is like Sarah Palin, but with actual campaign skills and the ability to not constantly shoot herself in the foot on television. My comparison, of course, was that Bachmann was like Palin if you injected a metric ton of LSD straight into her eyeballs. The word is that Bachmann managed to acquit herself quite well on stage, sounding professional and well-briefed. And if so, hey, good for her. But I still am dubious she can maintain a gaffe-free campaign, particularly in the general. There's no way she'll win her own state (Minnesota) -- she currently trails President Obama by a landslide 56/35 margin, and her favorables in that state are 33/59. She's not just unproven at winning beyond her conservative suburban Minnesota district, she is proven to be massively alienating to the broader center -- in fact, last year 56% of Minnesotans said they were "embarrassed" by her.
Ultimately, then, while I do think Bachmann could be a primary player, I can't see her actually taking the prize. And that gets us back to where we started -- who else but Romney? If T-Paw can't gain any traction -- and it looks like he can't -- there just doesn't seem to be any other remotely viable candidate in the Republican primary who could bring him down.