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The fiery last debate and the hectic week since then hasn’t really changed anything. So relax…
Despite headlines about last Tuesday’s debate such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal calling it a “slugfest that tested candidates’ mettle,” despite hearing a new tax plan from Rick Perry, and a “9-0-9” modification of Herman Cain’s signature policy for certain low-wage workers, despite Rick Santorum saying that Herman Cain’s position on abortion is like that of John Kerry and Barack Obama, the past week seems to have changed less about the situation in the Republican field than any week so far during this campaign season.
Amidst all the spinning, all the scurrilous charges, all the hyperbole and cognitive dissonance, nobody’s mind seems to be changing, at least if betting odds are any representation.
Since the beginning of last week (prior to the debate) betting odds on Republican candidates have barely moved:
• Mitt Romney is trading around 66.5 percent to be the nominee, the same price at which he began last week.
• Rick Perry likewise remains at the 14 percent probability he had a week ago, hardly the move he might have hoped for following the only time he has been able to ruffle Romney’s coiffeur.
• Herman Cain, despite encouraging poll numbers in Iowa and elsewhere, is trading around 7.6 percent, essentially unchanged with the beginning of last week after a brief spike up to about 9 percent.
• Newt Gingrich’s “resurrection” has catapulted him from 2.5 percent a week ago to 3 percent now, actually the biggest move, both in absolute and relative terms, of any candidate but still hardly a ripple on the political ocean.
• Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum are each within about 0.1 percent of where they started the week, at 2.5 percent, 1.2 percent, and 0.5 percent respectively. Santorum’s odds are only 0.1 percent away from those of Mike Huckabee (who isn’t running) and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (who nobody knows is running); one has to wonder how much longer Santorum will or should be included in these debates.
• Perhaps the smartest move was by Jon “Who?” Huntsman whose betting odds at about 2.6 percent remain, like the others, right where they were a week ago. But he accomplished that feat without having to spend money on a flight and hotel room (not to mention the other pleasures of Las Vegas).
It’s not as if we learned nothing in the past week, whether about Rick Perry’s petulance and flat tax plan-coming-soon, Mitt Romney’s ever-present political calculations, Herman Cain’s libertarian leanings, Rick Santorum’s sanctimoniousness, or Newt Gingrich’s consistently being the adult in the room.
And it’s not as if the media hasn’t tried spinning the last week’s news every possible way. Yet for the first time since the GOP field has been in its complete form, few minds were changed by any of it, including the debate, if betting odds are to be believed.
Do you feel after half a dozen debates more than a year before the general election, like a patient of Dr. D. P. Gumby, complaining “My brain hurts!”?
Or perhaps, are Republicans beginning to wonder whether many of the debates, especially those moderated by liberals such as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, are less likely to inform us than to position Republicans in a circular firing squad for the primary benefit of President Obama’s re-election chances?
My Australian-born but now American citizen wife — who’s quite the Newt Gingrich fan based on watching the Republican debates — theorizes that the Occupy Wall Street shenanigans have distracted the nation from thinking about Republican candidates. She is, as always, on to something, and it will be interesting to see if the candidates take on the unsanitary leftist Occu-Pie-ers at the next debate. But I think there’s more to our slight candidate numbness than distraction by latter day hippies egged on by union goons.
On the one hand, we are beginning to feel as if we know these candidates, that we are unlikely to learn much more from further debates other than perhaps who is the best debater — itself not an insignificant point for someone who will have to debate Barack Obama. (While our president will not be at his rhetorical best unless teleprompter contact lenses are invented for him, with Messrs. Axelrod and Plouffe furiously typing away giving him talking points during a debate, the idea of Rick Perry going up against Barack Obama seems like my local junior high school going up against the Big Ten champions.)
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