FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): (From videotape.) Any one of the people on this stage would be a better president than President Obama.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): (From videotape.) We're going to win. Just make no mistake about it. I want to announce tonight: President Obama is a one-term president. (Applause.)
JOHN KING: (From videotape.) Has he done one thing right when it comes to the economy of this country?
REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): (From videotape.) Boy, that's a tough question. (Laughter.)
MS. IFILL: Agreed, Republicans want to be President Obama, unclear who gets to do it.
Some at least are taking aim at Mitt Romney.
FORMER GOVERNOR TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): (From videotape.) He was involved in developing and he really laid the groundwork for "Obamacare" and continues to this day to defend it.
MS. IFILL: But what's true and what's not? Tonight, we give you just the facts.
MS. IFILL: The 2012 presidential campaign finally began to look like one this week, complete with web videos, minor gaffes, and full-fledged candidates debate. It ended pretty much the way it began with Mitt Romney looking like the man to beat, but it also clear he has even more reasons to look over his shoulder. So where does Romney, the frontrunner, Dan, stand tonight?
DAN BALZ: Well, and as you say, Gwen, there's no more talk about a slow starting Republican race for the nomination.
MS. IFILL: Mostly because we've been talking about it like in here.
MR. BALZ: Well, we've talked about it for so long, but it's happening. It's real. And this was a week that proved that. I think if you're Mitt Romney or Romney's advisors, you get to the end of this week feeling pretty good. He had a good debate in large part because his rivals didn't go after him. He had some awkward moments after the debate, in the couple of days afterwards, a couple of things he said, including "I'm unemployed," to a group of unemployed people --
MS. IFILL: It was a joke, but --
MR. BALZ: It was a joke, but it was --
MS. IFILL: -- awkward.
MR. BALZ: -- but it was a little awkward. But nonetheless I think he ended the week where he began it, but with a little more clarity that he is the clear frontrunner or at least the frontrunner.
On the other hand, if you're Romney's rivals, I think you come out of this week and say, yes, he is the frontrunner, but he still has real vulnerabilities that he's going to have to deal with and they will get dealt with before this nomination battle. And -- and second that compared to past frontrunners for a Republican nomination, he is nowhere near as strong as others have been.
MS. IFILL: And yet his competitors don't seem to know quite how to go after him. We saw that with Tim Pawlenty at the debate. We've seen it even with Michele Bachmann, who I saw interviewed today and every time she was asked whether she thought what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts with health care was a bad idea, she wouldn't say it.
MR. BALZ: Well, there's two problems. One is generally it is early to go after the frontrunner if you are a relatively, you know, newish candidate. I mean, this is a time when party activists are beginning to pay attention. Most voters are paying very little attention. And to the extent they are, the candidates want to make a good first impression. And you don't make a good first impression if the first thing out of your mouth is to attack somebody else. So that's part of the problem.
Specifically with Tim Pawlenty, I think he had a problem this week because he had foreshadowed an attack at the debate over health care, using the term, Sunday morning show on Fox of "Obamney-Care," which suggested he was going to use the debate to really make a fight over that issue. When he was given the opportunity, in fact given several opportunities to do it, he backed away. And they now believe and recognize that was a mistake. And so later this week, he did go after him.
MICHAEL DUFFY: The other person who got a lot of oxygen this week, coming out of the debate was Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota. Tell us what you make of that phenomenon so far. And is that also possibly good for Romney?
MR. BALZ: Well, let me take the first part first. Michele Bachmann has been steadily moving towards a candidacy. I mean, in so many ways she has been in the shadow of Sarah Palin, but as Sarah Palin has remained on the sideline, Michele Bachmann has come forward. And I think what we saw at the debate on Monday night in New Hampshire, were the attributes of somebody who could become a factor and a force in this campaign. There are still people who question whether she can go the entire distance, but she showed in that debate she has personality. She has some magnetism.
She has a personal touch with people. And all of those -- and obviously appeal to the Tea Party.
Now, for Romney this is very good news because she's going to be a force in Iowa. And Iowa is the place that Tim Pawlenty has to win if he wants to become the alternative to Mitt Romney.