I admit that I didn’t watch the Republican debate live last night. I had an important engagement that was far more interesting than the series of sound bites elicited by Chris Matthews. But I did catch the rerun. And I promptly fell asleep.

It is too early for these debates. There are too many people in them. And they don’t really illuminate real issues for the American people.

Matthews loves to ask about abortion and evolution. How ’bout a coherent discussion of trade and our nation’s slipping competitiveness? How ’bout a really good discussion about tax policy? How ’bout if each candidate gives us five minutes on how he would get us out of Iraq?

This is a cable network, for God’s sake. They should be able to spend some more time on the issues. What else is there to cover? More news about Natalee Holloway?

As a pundit, I am supposed to pick winners and losers.  The winner was Ron Paul. As a radical libertarian, he has the most coherent, best-articulated and least realistic political philosophy of the bunch. And he had the chance to market himself before a large audience.

The loser was the format. Instead of having the candidates answer, they should have just run 30 commercials from each campaign. It would have given us the same answer, but it would have made it harder for these guys to run over their allotted time.

Looking at the post-debate spin, this debate will be quickly forgotten by all but the hardiest political hacks.  And that may be a good thing.