Florida debate highlights GOP fears
Bad-tempered and boring, this 17th Republican primary debate illuminated little beside the candidates' frailties
It's the 17th Republican primary debate, so I guess we're all a little tired of talking about policy. But I wonder if those who tuned in tonight – and as the the first debate to be aired on a major network in prime time, one presumes it was a more representative audience than previous – realized something was off.
There were questions about Terri Schiavo and English-as-an-official-language, topics relevant to Florida voters … in 2005. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney squared off on how to best encourage the private sector to colonize space (Gingrich wants to offer "prizes").
Newt said he hired "lobbying experts" specifically to ensure he did not get caught lobbying. Romney said he "connected well" with "Republicans in New Hampshire" – a great argument for his ability to connect with general election voters, but the meaning it carries for Florida voters is "I connected well with Democrats."
Ron Paul showed up in his dad's suit again, sputtering about the gold standard but occasionally veering off into CommonSenseLand: "How can you be conservative and cut food stamps, but you won't cut spending overseas?" Paul also asserted "It's not 1962" anymore – though one could argue that's only because the GOP hasn't gotten its way. .................(more)
1. I like this part....Be afraid, Mitt, very afraid...there are people out there!
"In honor of the heightened weirdness on display Monday night, I will dispense with the usual A, B, C grading system and go with some psychobabble: based on tonight's performances, what are each contestant's biggest fears?
Mitt Romney: Running into a group of low-income voters in a quiet room while carrying a copy of income tax returns. His hard-earned veneer of humanity slips each time he's forced to reckon with a set of questions most Americans deal with at least once a year.
How much do you earn? How much of it goes to the government?
While Romney assured viewers that his tax returns (the last two years released Tuesday) contained "no surprises", I think that may be the problem: all they will do is confirm that Romney is very rich. Very, very, very rich. He also said that he's "proud to pay a lot of taxes," which is not the kind of thing you expect to hear at a GOP debate.