Newt Gingrich fell to earth last night in the Florida CNN debate, suitably in a tiny capsule that failed to reach its intended moon base. Gingrich may have felt more at home on another planet than in Jacksonville, Florida, where he watched his rival Mitt Romney tear him apart without mercy. He was back to his usual anti-media tactics in the debate but this time they fell flat, and ended up turning against him. Not even the audience could help Newt. Allowed to express themselves, the CNN crowd failed to rally the former Speaker of the House to victory, deflating his earlier complaint against the silenced NBC crowd earlier in the week.
Perhaps folks are catching on to the act?
Romney seems to have emerged as the clear winner from the debate going into the Florida primary, but he didn’t necessarily bring down the house. His low bar has allowed for quantum leaps whenever he actually produces a rebuttal, but he still gives off the appearance of man who would be much more comfortable in a big chair, legs up, on the phone with his blind trust. And if you know what a blind trust is, then Mitt would like your vote.
For his part, Romney did a fine job of defending Massachusetts’ healthcare, unintentionally making the case for President Obama as well:
“If you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.”
But actual solutions—or bringing down the cost—are small beans compared to victory at any cost. Rick Santorum made the cogent observation that Romney’s healthcare position is untenable for a Republican nominee going up against the President’s Obamacare:
“Folks, we can’t give this issue away in this election. Those are not the clear contrasts we need if we’re going to defeat Barack Obama.”
Santorum did not follow up with an explanation of his alternative healthcare plan.
Ron Paul made it clear he thinks all of the other candidates are bozos, but in such an amiable way that none of them appeared to have noticed. He doesn’t think we should go to the moon, as Gingrich does, but “we maybe should send some politicians up there,” he said. Paul has consistently performed at these debates in a likable, logical and honorable manner, to the point where one wonders why he has not caught on with the Republican primary voters in a bigger way.
Paul’s views don’t appear to be in conflict with the general conservative agenda, with the one glaring exception of foreign policy. It might be clearer if Rick Santorum was surging on his hardline views of Iran but according to the latest Florida polls, Paul is lingering with Santorum in 3rd or 4th place, well behind Gingrich and Romney.
Once the nominee is settled you can be sure that many on the right will be pining for Ron Paul instead as their candidate.