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More Election Notes: Romney the Favorite Once More (But Santorum Might Be Surging)

January 27, 2012, 6:21 PM
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BIG THINKER Robert de Neufville has said, quite correctly, that Romney is the favorite for the Republican nomination two weeks in a row.  But it's a little misleading to say he remains the favorite.  He's the favorite once more.

At the time of Robert's first post, it seemed Romney was poised to be 3-0.  But then there was the Iowa reversal and Mitt's South Carolina collapse.  I predicted, quite incorrectly, that Gingrich's SC momentum would carry him to victory in Florida. At that pont, Romney would be 1-3 and hardly the favorite.

Here's why I was wrong:  Newt's momentum comes from debate performances and depends on them.  I assumed he would do as well or better in the two pre-Florida debates as he had done in South Carolina.  I also assumed that Romney wasn't suited to debate aggressively and negatively against him, despite the abundance of material he would have to work with.

Newt has nothing else going for him but the illusion that, as a master debater, he could argue the president out of the White House with his stark contrasts and all that.  Nobody much actually likes him, and it's not like he can really run on his record.

Newt was terrible in the first Florida debate and worse in the second.  In the first one, he went into a kind of prevent defense so as not to blow his lead in the Florida polls.  Defense doesn't win primaries, and Romney was semi-effective in going after him.  So Newt started to fade rather quickly in the Florida polls.

In the second debate, Newt was unprepared, seemed to have no strategy, and just had very bad timing.  Romney was prepared and disciplined and easily fended off the lunging Newt attacks. Newt looked like a tired, fat fighter who hadn't trained this time. Romney fit and flexible.

The key showdown:  Santorum (more about him soon) made the point that the candidates should get beyond the Romney vs. Gingrich politics of personal destruction and just talk about the real issues.  Wolf Blitzer asked Newt about some nasty things he had said about rich-guy Romney on a Florida talk show.  Gingrich tried to get fake indignant about getting back to the real issues.  Romney said quietly but firmly:  You did say those things, so why can't you talk about them here.  Loser: Gingrich.  Winners: Santorum, Romney, and Blitzer.  It was a lame, failed Newt attempt to play that liberal elite media card twice. 

Already Romney has pulled ahead in the Florida polls based, I hear, mainly on the perception that only he could beat Obama.  Newt no longer had any evidence otherwise.  Right now, Romney polls quite competitively with the president.  Newt is way, way behind.

But Santorum won the debate.  He wiped the floor with Romney on a health care exchange.  He had all kinds of charming, informed, and clever answers.  He was the best prepared and most authentic candidate.  A great moment:  Republican candidates always quote the Declaration of Independence in a kind of perfunctory, meaningless way, and Gingrich and Romney are especially guilty of that.  Santorum explained that the Constitution is the HOW, but the Declaration is the WHY.  And here's how faith necessarily informs how we view the Declaration:  Our rights are God-given, and the purpose of government is to protect them. If our rights were given to us by government, then government could take them away.  Santorum, it turns out, is the candidate who gets closest to real political philosophy. 

Santorum was so eloquent that he might yet emerge as the conservative alternative to Romney.  He was so eloquent that even the liberal media elite are gushing over his performance, if not over his actual stands on the issues.

Ron Paul was very relaxed and funny.  His campaign has gotten less serious and a lot less threatening.  But who can deny that he's a good guy?

A big point:  The master debater Gingrich finished fourth and last in the most recent debate.

So it appears there's nothing stopping Romney from winning big in Florida.

Some experts claim that any Santorum surge will help Romney by pulling votes from Gingrich.  But I think he might well draw from Romney too:  Now that it's clear that Romney will win and take all the delegates in Florida easily, some faith-based conservatives might feel free to vote their hearts and not just calculate about who can beat the president.

Be clear: I'm not endorsing anyone, and I see no evidence of a Santorum surge yet.

 

More Election Notes: Romne...

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