Part One: The Saturday Snooze Fest
On Saturday night and Sunday morning, the Republican candidates for president met in two debates in New Hampshire, with less than 12 hours between showdowns. The Saturday night debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH was really more of a slowdown than a showdown. Despite the predictions of a wave of attacks directed at the front runner, Mitt Romney, the GOP debate on Saturday night was a snooze fest that made this writer think most of the candidates were up way past their bedtimes.
While many political commentators are focusing on this mornings more exciting debate, it’s worth noting that last night Mitt Romney started to get caught in the long grass of the Republican primary process. In a back-and-forth with George Stephanopoulos about whether the Supreme Court should allow the states to ban contraception, Romney laughed that question off and looked for safer ground…by saying he thinks the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade. The issue of contraception is a red herring thrown into this race by Rick Santorum’s showing in the Iowa Caucus, and Mitt Romney was right to laugh off the idea of a president who bans condoms as being so ridiculous it’s not even worthy of an actual answer, but by resorting to an attack on Roe v. Wade to buff up his conservative credentials, Romney gave the Obama reelection campaign a sound bite they are almost certain to have on repeat in their ads this fall, if Romney becomes the GOP nominee.
Part Two: The Coffee Kicks In
At Sunday morning’s debate in Concord, New Hampshire, the rest of the Republican field finally drank their coffee, rubbed the sleepies from their eyes, and set their sights on Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both buffeted Romney with the charge that he is a career politician. Romney has been running on the storyline that he is a businessman who knows how to create jobs, and Gingrich and Santorum successfully pointed out that Romney has actually been running for office for 20 years. Romney attempted to throw out a well-crafted narrative that he is a businessman who magically shows up to serve in government when the people need him, like some modern day capitalist Superman with the hair to match. Gingrich told him to “drop the pious baloney”, and pointed out that Romney only shows up in office occasionally, because he can’t win the rest of the time. From his defeat in the Senate race against Teddy Kennedy in 1994, to his decision not to run for reelection as governor of Massachusetts (because he was guaranteed to lose), to his loss to John McCain for the Republican nomination in 2008, Mitt Romney is no selfless Superman job creator, but rather a career failed politician.
“This Nation Is Divided Because Of Attitudes Like That.”
Jon Huntsman joined in the fray and got off what will probably be the best one liner of the entire GOP debate season. When Mitt Romney repeated his jab at Huntsman for serving as President Obama’s Ambassador to China, and said the Republican Party can’t nominate a man who referred to Obama as a remarkable leader, Jon Huntsman replied to great applause, “This nation is divided because of attitudes like that.” Jon Huntsman has been waiting for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire all year long, and has spent more time in the Granite State than probably all of the other Republican candidates combined. But like the nerd who builds the perfect booby trap and gets the popular football player to fall on his face, any momentary momentum that Huntsman has in New Hampshire will be a temporary victory. The rest of the school will laugh with the nerd at the jock, for one day…then things go back to normal. New polls suggest that Huntsman might take second place in New Hampshire away from Ron Paul, and Romney’s lead has dropped 8 points over the past 4 days (from 43%-35%), but unless Huntsman pulls a rabbit out of his hat and actually wins in New Hampshire, the upcoming primary terrain of South Carolina and Florida could be so unfriendly to him that Huntsman drops out of the race after Florida. Chris Matthews, of MSNBC, thinks Huntsman will drop out even earlier; in a line I am thoroughly jealous of, Matthews is referring to the upcoming South Carolina primary January 21, 2012 as “five vettings and a funeral”. R.I.P. John Huntsman, we’ll remember your fluent Mandarin fondly.
The real story coming out of this Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary may be the stall in the momentum of Rick Santorum. The latest of the Not Romney conservatives, the man who finished second by a margin of only 8 votes in the Iowa Caucuses, will be very lucky to eke out a fourth place finish this Tuesday in New Hampshire. With the cluttered GOP field, Santorum will be splitting the conservative vote with Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, at least through the Florida primary. Unless one clear alternative candidate emerges, Mitt Romney may have the GOP nomination all but sewed up before Super Tuesday the first week of March.
Who’s Your Job Creator Now?
Mitt Romney’s entire campaign is based around the economy; with a stiff demeanor, a history of flip-flops, and a charisma deficit as large as our national debt, Romney knows there are no passionate crusaders for his cause, but he hopes to parlay his record as the millionaire boy from Bain Capital into the presidency, because of a weak economy. For all of Mitt Romney’s talk of American exceptionalism, he needs America’s economy to lose, in order for him to win. No incumbent President has ever lost his race for reelection, when the unemployment rate decreases over the last two years of his first term. In November of 2010, the unemployment rate in the US was 9.8%, compared with last weeks figure of 8.5%. If that trend continues through November of 2012, Barack Obama’s presidency will continue as well.
Sarah Warden is the author of the novel Three Fifths of Love, available as an ebook from amazon http://www.amazon.com/Three-Fifths-Love-Marriage-ebook/dp/B005EZ3QU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318174116&sr=8-1
Image of sleeping Koala bear by Luciano Roth Coelho (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsImage of Jon Huntsman by World Economic Forum [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image of Mitt Romney by c.berlet/publiceye.org http://www.publiceye.org/gallery (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image of Barack Obama as Superman is in the public domain. Job Creation chart is taken from Barack Obama’s Facebook page. Use of these images does not imply any endorsement of the views expressed in this article.