Tuesday Nights Republican Presidential Debate was a shoot out from the start. I thought that I had stumbled on an old family reunion where aging family members were still angry over things said and done in high school. Girlfriends stolen, promises broken, the whole gamut of issues, but what was interesting about the debate was that all the candidates were fighting over who has been the most conservative over time. It really was must see TV.
Throughout the fight however, one of the family members kept coming to center of all the issues and leading the charge to make the final point for all, much like the patriarch who would step in and tell everyone to cool their jets after having had too many beers.
Mitt Romney began to lead. I know the pundits today said it was a squabble fest and I know some have said that Gingrich won the debate-hell, Newt Gingrich has one every debate on substance as far as I am concerned but no one is going to vote for him during the primaries. I have heard on radio and read on the internet until I have been blue in the face about how everyone is looking for the real conservative. I don’t know that there is such a thing these days and I don’t think that person could stand up to the litany of demands from the Right, let alone the all out arrow assault from the Left. I do know this though. Mitt Romney is a different candidate now then when the debates started in South Carolina in May and after last night’s performance, he proved he can take quite a few arrows to the chest.
Is he the perfect candidate? No, because the perfect candidate doesn’t exist because there are no perfect people in the world let alone the gladiator sport of politics. No, he is not perfect but he is the only candidate to have stayed steady in the polls regardless of whether or not people are looking for the non-Romney candidate. Maybe they are but that is the reason for the primary process. All of the candidates have good positions and all of them have ideas that would move the country in the direction it needs to go and, combined and refined, their ideas would make one hell of a presidential platform to run on.
As I watched last night, I was struck how Mitt Romney took it from all sides, gave it back, and still stayed in the moment. Herman Cain had a frustrated look on his face when the machine gun fire was aimed at him, but Romney didn’t ruffle. He basically told Rick Santorum to shut up, albeit politely, and he told Governor Perry that if he wanted to be President he needed to listen. When he said that I laughed out loud at the comment but also because it reminded me of bosses I have had who have put me in my place for being petulant.
Rick Perry went for Governor Romney’s kneecaps and whiffed. When you have to resort to attacks from the last Presidential election process, you are struggling for material and Governor Perry had no answer. He just stood there looking at him with that “oh well, there went this campaign” look on his face and I think his nomination chances flashed before him.
I think the process has unfolded like this: everyone has been conservative window shopping but no one who could win has shown up to take the microphone, but all the while, Mitt Romney has become a very serious candidate. I voted for him in 2008 for full disclosure, but I have really been waiting like everyone else for someone else to show up. I have thought that Santorum and Gingrich have been the best on substance and for conservatives from the start, even though Gingrich has a streak of group love in him, but they will get as many votes as Felix and Oscar would. That’s ok. They have been an important part of the puzzle so far and now this race is Romney’s to give away but I don’t think that will happen now. He grabbed the microphone last night, put everyone in their place and began to look Presidential.
There is still two and half months left before this kicks into high gear. That is enough time to find out if the real Mitt Romney has finally stood up.