In case anyone had doubts, the first five minutes of last night’s debate made it clear that the Republican primary has come down to a Romney / Perry match-up. The other six candidates were barely on the radar.
Santorum: Why is he still there? Why was he ever there? He must know by now that he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this thing despite whatever words God whispered into his virgin ears.
Cain: The man is simply ridiculous. He tries so hard to come across as an ideas man but appears totally unaware that running a country differs somewhat from running a pizza empire. Cain made it clear that he wants to privatize Social Security. He denies this and says instead that he wants the US to follow the Chilean model. What is the Chilean model? It’s the privatization of Social Security.
Gingrich: This is the Republican’s real ideas man. His major problem is that those ideas belong to a nasty prick who is overloaded with excess baggage – none of it good.
Paul: Yawn. His ‘we-don’t-need-government’ shtick has gotten old. Last night he claimed that Americans don’t need the FAA and that air safety would best be served by handing it over to the private sector. How does anyone take this kook seriously?
Bachmann: It was over for Bachmann the day Perry announced his candidacy. There are only so many Tea Party votes available and Perry’s got the majority of those locked up. And by the looks of her poor performance last night, Bachmann is understanding that her claim to fame in this primary will be that she won the Iowa straw poll. Bye Michele.
Huntsman: If there was anyone Dems should have feared from this Republican field, it was Jon Huntsman. The man has the smarts, the experience and the demeanor to be a credible president. His ideas on matters both fiscal and social show him to be a solid conservative but unfortunately for him, he lacks the extremist Tea Party mentality to win the primary. At any other time, a conservative expressing a belief in science (evolution and climate change in this case) might have been forgiven given his or her greater credentials. In this era of Republican insanity, not so. Which brings us to…
Romney and Perry: If there is a second Republican for Dems to fear in a general election with Obama, it’s Mitt Romney. Much like Huntsman, Romney has the intellect and background to appeal to independent voters. But despite his efforts to make himself more palatable to the crazies, his hard right turn on issues still leaves him a couple of notches short of Rick Perry’s lunacy – a lunacy, by the way, which Perry solidified with his reaffirmation last night that Social Security is a “big lie” and a “Ponzi scheme”. While that view might win him favor with an idiot base, it’s going to cause him major headaches in the general election.
Jonathan Chait explains the differences between Romney and Perry.
The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions. What scientists do you trust on climate change? I don’t want to risk the economy. Are you taking a radical position on social security? We can have reasons or we can have results. His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.
In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I suspect the Bush-Perry debating style broadcasts a subliminal message of strong leadership. Romney feels compelled to bind himself to the parameters of the question before him. Perry ignores them. It is, in a sense, an alpha male move. I am not going to lower myself to your premise about scientists. I am going to declare my principles.
A Perry win, I think, gives Barack Obama the best hope of winning in 2012. Given the disastrous Bush legacy, can Americans possibly put a Bush clone in the White House?
In any case, the low point of last night’s debate had to be the spontaneous applause from the conservative audience when the subject of the high number of executions under Perry’s watch came up. Andrew Sullivan summed up the moment perfectly.
Here’s why I find it impossible to be a Republican: any crowd that instantly cheers the execution of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join.
Whatever one’s thoughts on capital punishment might be, applauding the death of 234 people is downright creepy.