If I was a Republican who firmly believed that Barack Obama is destroying America and Must Be Stopped in 2012, I would have spent the majority of the CNN New Hampshire GOP Primary debate on Monday night sliding the barrel of a gun into my mouth and slowly talking myself out of it before repeating the process at five minute intervals. Since I'm not a Republican, I spent those two hours of my life (which unfortunately I can never get back) in absolute shock that there is a non-negligible chance that one of these drooling idiots will be the next president of the United States.

Three observations:

1. It's stunningly clear in the side-by-side comparison that Mitt Romney is the only one of these candidates with half of a functioning brain in his head. I think he's wrong about just about everything (more on that momentarily) but god forbid a tanking economy turns 2012 into an "anyone but the incumbent" election and we get stuck with one of these people. Romney might be a douchebag, but better a d-bag with access to the nuclear codes than one of these other vacant-eyed sociopaths.

2. This debate had nothing to do with answering questions or taking positions – it was Kowtow to the Donor Base, Evangelicals, and Tea Party Night. Anyone else enjoy the surreal sequence in which Pawlenty, Romney, and Bachmann tried to out-tax-cut one another? Romney proposed taking the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. T-Paw one-upped him with 15% last week. Tonight, Bachmann threw down to the tune of 9% (with no capital gains tax, estate tax, or AMT…and a tax increase on the lowest bracket). It was like watching three children fight over who loves mommy more. All seven debaters participated in a spirited round of "No, I hate Obamacare the most!" followed by the requisite "Who is the most pro-life pro-lifer?" sparring match. The candidates, sans Bachmann, didn't even look like their hearts were in any of this. Romney and T-Paw in particular had that McCain 2008 look of resignation, the one that shouts "I have to say this but very little of me believes it." CNN's crowd shots were a great reminder of who these candidates were trying to impress on Monday evening:

Dance faster, monkeys. The bloated plutocrats are not impressed.

3. The GOP analysts and talking heads are buzzing about a "big opening" (insert joke here) for Rick Perry. First, that's little more than a polite way of saying "Wow, these people are just terrible." Second, Perry is quickly turning into Fred Thompson 2012, the maybe-candidate on whom the party can pin its hopes of saving Republicans from this terrible field. In practice a Rick Perry candidacy would probably work about as well as Thompson's "campaign" did in 2008. The party faithful are just using him as a blank slate on which to project their fantasies of a perfect candidate; in reality he is a deeply flawed politician whose bullshit flies in Lubbock but doesn't scale up well to the national stage. And don't forget that every other candidate has a 2+ year head start on him in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early states. The louder the drumbeat gets for a Knight in shining armor to save the party, the poorer the odds that any such person will actually materialize. If Perry thought he would walk away with the nomination he'd be in.

God help us all.