GOP Debate Analysis: Newt Shoots For Moon, Misses
Actually, he's polling at 9 percent, which is ankle-in-ankle with Ron Paul.
So, take that back. Romney it is.
This is what the GOP primary has turned into: a rolling wheel of fortune, where the fates of non-Romney candidates take sinuous journeys based on one-off debate performances, potmarks from personal histories, and, God I don't know, Pagean phases of the moon. And it all ends back at where they were.
Tonight, Newt was bad, ok? Real bad. Those standing "Os" back in Carolina? Well, turns out they were actually cheap shots at the media that made him sound like an angry rabble-rouser, feeding, albeit perfectly, into Republican fury at Obama. Also at the liberal media, which at points can include Fox News.
But try that one too many times, and not buoyed by blustery righteous indignation, and he becomes sort of a train wreck. Early on, Newt tried shaming moderator Wolf Blitzer--a highly achievable task--out of asking questions about previous statements on Romney's tax returns and overseas bank accounts.
Newt put on a twisted smile then began calling the premise ridiculous while the audience coiled for the Pavlovian media slam.
Only Romney bit. "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here?"
This provocation sent Newt into a wobbly accusation of the mysteries of Romney's wealth that simply didn't pan out like it had only a week ago.
Later he tried to make a show of Romney owning stock in federal real estate giants Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. But Romney pointed out that Newt did too.
"So I did," Newt nodded his head.
Those still weren't in the top tier of worst parts of the night for the former speaker.
Early on, a significant portion of time was spent listening to Gingrich accuse Romney of wanting to deport theoretical Mexican grandmothers.
The phrase "grabbing grandmothers" was actually used, and in front of a Floridian audience where immigration, illegal and otherwise, is a serious issue. These candidates do have strongly contrasting views on immigration, with Newt proffering the possibility of amnesty while Romney has been tacking hard right.
Instead the candidates referred 11 times to these Mexican grandmothers and any nuance in their positions was lost. Lost, unfortunately for Newt, on a position that might poll well with Hispanics.
Bad as Abuela-gate was, it still wasn't bottom yet for Newt. That came in the murky reaches of his loony moon views. Pity him somewhat, as his passion for space exploration seems to come from a genuine place of 50s-era wonder. And in Florida, the revisions of NASA and our space mindset has been rough on the so-called "space coast."
Hearing Gingrich defending his plans to build a lunar colony, you knew his reputation of thinking a bit too grandiose wasn't going to be improving Thursday.
Newt may still have some unfinished business with the moon, but Romney was positively over it as the old dreamer sketched out his childhood fantasies.
The others were hardly flawless in the final appearance before Tuesday's primary vote. Romney in particular was shown up by Santorum on the unshakable similarities between his Massachusetts health care plan and Obama's overhaul.
On a separate issue, Romney completely forgot the content of a campaign commercial he himself had approved, wherin he called Spanish "the language of the ghetto."
He also used the phrase, "we need more whistle blowers and less horn tooters," which, if there is any justice left in America, will follow him throughout the rest of his campaign.
For whatever it matters, Santorum was remarkably effective in setting himself up as the more traditional conservative on health care. His knowledge of foreign affairs is still shaky (particularly in South America when he blamed Obama for stalling a free trade agreement with Colombia. It was George W. Bush who put off the plan, and Obama who passed it October of this year) but his place in the race was clear for once.
And Ron Paul was more coherent than he'd been in weeks. His challenge to the rivals on stage to a 25-mile bike ride ("in Texas heat") not withstanding. Though it could make for some nice filler in the month wait for the next debate. Guys, what if it happened on the moon?
Florida, if it goes Romney, could provide the second wind he needs to regain a firm grasp on his place above the leader-board.
A few debates ago, Gingrich looked unstoppable in the medium, now he's verging on played out. A bad loss on Tuesday could stop cold an incipient surge.
Can't feel too bad for Newt though. In terms of degree of difficulty, it's always hardest when you're trying to shoot the moon.
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