The Republicans differed on most of the major foreign policy issues before the US - Afghanistan, Syria and Iran - but they agreed on making Pakistan work for the aid it gets from America.
"Not a penny" till it falls in line, said Texas governor Rick Perry. Congresswoman Michele Bachman was less strident but said, "We need to demand moreâ€.But she wouldn't as go as far as to disengage." "It (Pakistan) is too nuclear to fail," she argued.
Pakistan figured prominently at the debate on national security for the seven candidates for the Republican presidential ticket Tuesday night.
When asked about continued drone strikes, former speaker Newt Gingrich stressed emphatically that Pakistan should be given the option to cooperate or get out of the way.
The former speaker, who has surged to the top of the table in the last few weeks, and Mitt Romney looked the most presidential, best informed and better nuanced than the rest. But he might have hurt his case a it, agreed most commentators, because of his "humane"stand on deportation of illegal immigrants: those who had lived in the US for a long time must be thrown out.
A soft line on immigration goes against the Republican grain, and cost Perry his first dip in popularity. Gingrich said he was aware of the pitfalls of his stand, but he will stand firm on it He didn't pander, averred many liberal commentators.But Republicans pounced on him.The Bachman campaign charged Gingrich with advocating amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"That sounds like amnesty to me," Bachman said in a television interview after the debate. For the most part, the debate is unlikely to change the rankings. Jon Huntsman looked better than ever, Perry didn't forget his lines, Ron Paul continued to remind everyone as the cranky uncle in an unfitting suit, and Rick Santorum looked grumpy.
And Herman Cain, the former frontrunner, continued to look clueless on foreign policy. And forgetful. He mixed up CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer's name.