Well, Rick Santorum had his shot on Wednesday. Coming into the last debate of the season, he had a strong lead in Michigan, but Mitt was closing the gap quickly. Rick desperately needed a commanding debate performance to reestablish his momentum going into the Michigan/Arizona contests next week and the critical “Super Tuesday” match-ups one week later.
Instead, he fell right on his face.
I was genuinely surprised (as was much of the mainstream media) by how completely unprepared he was to defend himself against attacks that were clearly coming…or to attack Romney in any significant way.
After all, the biggest “negative” advantage he has over Romney concerns Mitt’s support for the Wall Street bailouts vs. his opposition to the auto bailouts. In fact, Romney’s weakest moment of the night came when he tried to justify that contradiction. It was the perfect moment for Rick to pounce — a launching pad for a clear contrast in important philosophies, particularly as it relates to the dangers of crony capitalism. So did he rise to the occasion?
No, he mostly let it slide with a weak “I’m consistent and he isn’t” response.
I just shook my head in wonder. But even more shocking was Santorum’s approach to his biggest “positive” advantage over Romney (especially in Iron Belt states like Michigan and Ohio): his plan to eliminate federal taxes on any enterprise that’s moving manufacturing plants back into this country. And how did Rick address this issue? Why, he didn’t even mention it! Not once the entire evening (that I can remember, at least; it certainly wasn’t a major issue at all). What kind of politician doesn’t even use his strongest weapon??
I could not believe what I was seeing! This performance, my friends, is nearly impossible to defend. Santorum confirmed quite clearly what many of us already suspected: he simply isn’t up to the task of taking on President Obama. He runs an up-and-down operation; he lacks discipline and focus. And he compounded his errors — while also enhancing his D.C. reputation for being priggish and ill-tempered — by blaming his sub-par performance on a supposed “conspiracy” between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul (an argument debunked quite thoroughly by the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin today).
Rick performed very poorly and then acted like a sore loser. That is not presidential material. It’s time to put an end to all this. Polls done yesterday indicate that Romney has taken a slight lead in Michigan, while he continues to lead by over ten points in Arizona. If he wins both those contests, he will have all the momentum going into Super Tuesday, after which the schedule sets up better for him. Hopefully he can wrap up the nomination soon and end this increasingly dangerous bickering. The alternative is quite unsettling.
It is long past time for the Tea Partiers to accept that they don’t have a strong candidate in this field, and that Romney is far and away the best chance the Republicans have to beat a well-funded sitting president this November.
More GOP primary voters are coming to that conclusion every day. They know that Obama is in a much weaker position than the mainstream media wants to admit. They know that they need to rally around a standard-bearer.
The GOP has one clear prime-time candidate; they need to unleash him on an incompetent incumbent. Don’t screw this one up, Republicans! The stakes are just too high, and the price of failure will be far too steep.