As he loses frontrunner status, it’s not enough for Mitt Romney not to hurt himself in a debate. He has to help himself. And I didn’t hear him do that on Saturday night.
Going negative seems very tough for Romney, outside of the playbook he’s most familiar with. And as with most things people don’t do often, he’s not very good at it.
But, like it or not, it’s a critical part of politics. And it’s a skill that Romney better demonstrate he’s at least modestly facile with if he wants voters to believe that he’s tough enough to take on President Obama who will, directly and through surrogates, likely mount the most negative presidential campaign in history.
Romney’s answers to questions were fine, but as usual lacked the fire and passion of many of the other candidates. Gingrich handled a question about marital fidelity gracefully and defended his statement that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Even while Romney’s response was probably more presidential than Newt’s position, something which Rick Santorum also suggested, Romney’s position was less memorable than Gingrich’s.
And even while Romney’s response to requests for further explanation about his view on health care mandates was a mostly-solid 10th Amendment reference, what was most memorable — and reinforced by Ron Paul — was the fact that the keeps having to answer the same question. As my friend, former Congressman Bob Schaffer, says: if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Mitt Romney seems always to have too much ‘splainin’ to do to be able to break through his 25 percent wall of approval.
Somehow Newt dispenses with the explaining and moves on to new issues, a skill Mitt needs to acquire.
Despite news reports claiming that both the moderators and the other candidates had “assailed” Gingrich, at intrade.com, betting odds showed that debate viewers were pleased with Gingrich’s performance — and unimpressed with Romney and the rest of the field. Gingrich was up about 4 percent from several hours earlier, trading between 37 and 38 percent while Romney was down about 2 points to about 44.5 percent. Jon Huntsman (who did not participate in the debate) and Ron Paul’s odds both fell nearly
a point, but are still close to 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively. (I think they’re both a sale; neither is going to get the nomination.). Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry remain around 2% with Rick Santorum back down to about 0.7 percent, giving back his brief spike to about 1.4 percent after Sarah Palin’s positive comments about a week ago.
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