I'm sorry to disagree with my friend, and sincere Rick Santorum supporter, Quin Hillyer, who suggests that Wednesday's Republican debate was "no game changer."
Having heard a little more than an hour of the Republican debate on Wednesday evening, my gut reaction was that it was a disaster for Rick Santorum and a solid night for Mitt Romney. Santorum was booed repeatedly while cheers for Romney sounded more enthusiastic than anything I've heard since Florida.
Ron Paul did tremendous damage to Santorum by questioning the sincerity of principle of a candidate who runs for president on a platform of repealing things he did while in Congress, arguing that such behavior shows one to be a "fake" fiscal conservative. It was a most effective line of attack despite Santorum's attempts to defend himself by quoting his ratings among various conservative groups which measure voting records of members of Congress.
On the other hand, Ron Paul also picked off that old scab of his dangerous denial of the reality of Iran's nuclear intentions and their inexorable progress in that direction. He remains disqualified from holding the office of president for that reason.
Newt was very good as always...but so what?
A couple of hours later, I see that political bettors at intrade.com agree with me: Rick Santorum's odds of being the Republican nominee have plummeted from 13 percent to 6 percent, with Romney moving up from 74 percent to 79 percent. (Gingrich also gained a point, now up to about 4.5 percent.) Similarly, Romney's betting odds for winning the upcoming Michigan primary spiked up about 10 points, from below 70 percent to hearly 80 percent, with Santorum plunging from about 31 percent to 21 percent.
Sorry, Quin, tonight was a game-changer, and did more for Romney's chances than any debate so far in this election cycle.
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