09/07/2011 11:18 pm ET | Updated Nov 07, 2011

Romney Lives

The media rush to anoint Rick Perry stalled as a surprisingly feisty Mitt Romney crashed the Texas governor's first GOP presidential debate.

It wasn't just that Romney firmly countered Perry's ill-advised attacks on Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie" -- perhaps the dumbest thing I've ever heard said in a presidential debate (which is saying a lot!). Romney smoothly dominated Perry on several occasions.

While his chief rival is a fifth-generation Texan, Romney was the one who came across as having been to the rodeo.

For instance, when Perry lamely tried to score with an obviously rehearsed line about how Romney's predecessor as Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, created more jobs than he did, Romney instantly shot back by claiming that George W. Bush as governor produced more jobs than Perry. He got the audience laugh and won the moment.

That was a childish exchange, for sure, but made Perry look worse because he started it -- which was weird, because given Perry's fledgling frontrunner status he didn't stand to benefit by attacking anyone.

Anyway, it's early and all things are possible. Although Perry did nothing to ruin his status, Romney managed to show some stuff that avoided a media narrative that he was fading away.

The result is that the new narrative holds that the Republican race is a Romney-Perry showdown instead of the Perry romp that it might have been.

And who knows, we might be looking at party's likeliest ticket, in whatever order.