OK. Now can we stick a fork in the GOP nomination? Yes, yes … oh, all right. I’ll wait for Super Tuesday.
The Santorum surge over the last few weeks has been one of the more bizarre storylines of the entire election cycle. I flatter myself to think I saw it coming when I tweeted some time back that Santorum would be the VP nominee. But I didn’t see this coming. He gave Romney a run for his money with a hell of a lot less money. The punditariat think this is because the GOP is so extreme. I think it’s much simpler than that. Santorum believes the things he says. When he stands next to Mitt Romeny, it’s almost appealing … if you can stand the man at all. The one thing that always appeals to the American voter is sincerity.
I’m in a mad rush to go overseas so it will be light posting from me until Friday night. But the big news is that Romney has won Florida and is now running well ahead of the pack. I won’t declare it over with so many delegates not having voted. But it’s very close to over. We have simply not seen the emergence of a credible NotRomney.
It seems like overnight the Republican also-rans have figured out that attacking Mitt Romney might be more profitable than attacking each other. Huntsman opened with a great defense of being Obama’s ambassador to China. Rick Perry, Mr. Oops himself, had a great line about Romney’s fear of pink slip being a fear of running out of them. And Romney, bless him, handed them a great line all on his own:
Now to be clear, this is taken out of context. Romney was talking about health insurance and defending the private market over a socialized market. He was saying he likes being able to fire your health insurance company if they aren’t providing you with good insurance. But given his dubious attacks on his fellows, he’s opened himself up for this.
Romney’s Bain Capital days are the epicenter of this and I can understand why. The public has a huge distaste for people who make millions downsizing and blowing up companies. Maybe they shouldn’t: there’s plenty of evidence that downsizing, in the end, moves capital and people from inefficient dying businesses to more robust ones. But it’s a fact that people don’t like it. And if you think Perry and Huntsman are being unfair about it now, you just wait until Team Obama gets their teeth into this. Five years ago, this wouldn’t have been a liability. But with the perception that our economy has been crippled by rich guys who do nothing but play with money all day, Romney’s Bain Capital background is a big liability. And how he responds now will be a big indication of whether he can absorb the punches Obama is going to deliver later this year.
Unless the Republicans suddenly discover John Huntsman, the race has narrowed down to Paul, Santorum and Romney. I still think Romney is the most likely nominee since both Santorum and Paul have a lot of baggage. But don’t be surprised if this goes a long time and ends up with a brokered convention.
To be fair … I do some amount of public speaking and have occasionally had a brain cramp. Just last week, an unexpectedly raucous response to a throwaway joke threw me off my stride. But experienced speakers — and Perry is one — have ways of recovering. You combine this with his prior debate performances and his drunken syrup speech, and the impression is of a candidate who is just winging it. (Not that he’s the only one who gives that impression). If the Bush years taught us anything, it’s that the ability to communicate ideas is one of the most critical aspects of a presidency.
The other thing I take from this is that Perry hasn’t really invested a lot of thought in which department he would keep and which he would cut. His plan to cut three is just something to say. The actual departments he would cut are irrelevant since it’s very unlikely to very happen. Frankly, it seemed last night that Romney and Huntsman were the only ones to be thinking about how to govern and what actual policies to implement rather than what sounds good in a 30-second sound bite.
On its own, this gaffe would be amusing but meaningless. When you consider it in the context of an inept campaign, it’s an apotheosis of everything that’s gone wrong for Team Perry.