Mitt Romney's first litmus test in the run up to the 2012 Presidential elections -- Republican Presidential Debate hosted by CNN at New Hampshire, Manchester -- went quite smoothly. Romney, like all the other six republicans, chose to tread a cautious path and considered it too premature to take jibes at each other. Instead, they opted to take few digs at President Barack Obama and his policies.
Romney in particular, was keen not to repeat the grave mistakes he committed in 2008. Last time, many of his supporters had felt he had got himself distracted from his key strengths - the image of a 'job creator' gained from his rich and impressive venture capitalist experience in the private sector.
On Monday night, many were anticipating a close competition between Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. In the build-up to the debate, Pawlenty on Sunday criticized the unpopular health care reforms of Obama and attempted to draw a stark comparison with Romney's own Massachusetts health care reforms.
Incidentally, Obama had previously stated that he took the Massachusetts policy of Romney as a blue print while designing his health care reforms.
During the New Hampshire debate, Pawlenty, however, deliberately decided to forgo the opportunity to follow up with the remarks he made on Sunday. Given the fact that there are still 17 months to go before the 2012 elections, analysts consider it a wise decision to at least temporarily put brakes on his 'Obamneycare' remarks.
Although there was evident intimidation from CNN moderator John King, Romney stood his ground and avoided both Pawlenty and health care issues.
The former Massachusetts Governor took it in his stride and subtly or rather smartly switched to the issue of auto bailout, instead of dragging himself into a sticky situation so early. Romney would not have wanted to be in the lime light for all the wrong reasons, even if he had managed to effectively counter a Pawlenty assault.
Mitt Romney did no harm to his front-runner status after the GOP debate. His no-nonsense approach was evident when he diplomatically announced ''Any one of the people on this stage would be a better President than President Obama.
Romney had presumably learned a lesson the hard way after 2008, and looks determined to maintain a steadfast focus on the country's economy and not elsewhere.