February 23, 2012

Guess What: A Frontrunner Named Rick Botches A Debate

Fans of the “history is cyclical” theory got plenty to cheer about last night. Picture this: the GOP primary race has a frontrunner who is leading Romney in the national polls and in several polls of key upcoming primary states. He is deeply religious and connects with that subsection of Republicans much better than Romney, speaking about – and being asked about – his faith quite a bit on the trail. He connects with Southern voters and very conservative voters more than Romney, which is where the strength of his lead comes from. His name is Rick, and he has it all; then Rick goes to a debate and flushes it all down the proverbial toilet.

If it seems like you’ve heard the story before, you have: it’s the path followed by both Ricks in this primary contest. It was so fitting to see Rick Perry in the audience last night as a kind of symbol for how this race has gone. We could call this the Icarus primary, really: weak GOP candidates begin to soar on tenuous wings of wax, and as they soar into the frontrunner’s position the wings melt under the heat of the scrutiny received. Rick Santorum, as we saw last night, turns out no differently than any of the other johnny-come-latelys.

His responses in defense of earmarks and No Child Left Behind will haunt his campaign forever. The fact that he was booed multiple times last night only set in stone the narrative that he had an absolute miserable performance. Romney didn’t give his best performance by any means – in my opinion, he kept arguments going longer than he should have several times – but Romney didn’t have to have his best night. He just needed to be better than Santorum, and he clearly was.

Mark Halperin over at TIME Magazine gave Romney a B and Santorum a D for the night. That seems about right. The Hill’s GOP12 blog seemed to grade on a curve and gave Romney an A and Santorum a C (the lowest grade of the night). Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post’s blog The Fix ranked Romney and Paul as the two winners and Santorum as the biggest loser. Prior to the debate last night, Romney was leading Santorum about 77-11 on Intrade. This morning, it’s 79-7.

And so we see recent history repeating itself, as a Rick steps into a prime opportunity to prove himself and cement his frontrunner position – and instead leaves the stage bloodied, battered, and broken with no shot of holding on to his position in the race. Or, we might say, with wax dripping from where wings once were.

by @ 8:09 am. Filed under Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum
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39 Responses to “Guess What: A Frontrunner Named Rick Botches A Debate”

  1. Matt "MWS" Says:

    Matt C,

    The Icarus analogy is clever and appropriate, though I might include Mitt among those whose wings have been melting under scrutiny. He’s been inevitable at least two or three times now.

    As for Rick last night, I only saw/heard the last 15 minutes, but I know everyone says he sucked. Still, I cannot imagine his performance descended to the depths to warrant comparison to The Corrupt Dumb@ss.

  2. Killjoy Says:

    Nothing significant happened to change anything last night. Overall.. even less meaningfull than Romney’s Maine win in terms of it’s impact on the race. Keep dreaming if you think even a single Santorum voter switched to Romney after last night.

  3. Massachusetts Conservative Says:

    2

    LOL!

  4. Matthew E. Miller Says:

    Someone pointed out, aptly, that every front-runner has seemed to tank in a debate (or series of debates) just when they seemed to have things well in hand. How much different does this race look if Romney releases his tax returns the day before that first South Carolina debate? Hubris seems to affect all of these guys. Or maybe they’re just not clutch. That said, Romney’s had to face far more big front-runner moments than the other fellas and so probably gets a few points for keeping his shit together more often and longer than anyone else.

  5. Willard Mittens Rombot Says:

    Killjoy. Did Nooot give you “chills” again? It’s back to Satan wrangling for Rick and back to book selling for Nooot.

  6. BC Says:

    Santorum is a joke. The writing has been on the wall for many months now.

    How many pledged delegates does he have so far? Two? LOL. When all is said and done, Ron Paul will probably finish ahead of him.

    Newt will swing back up and Intrade will probably present new investment opportunities in the coming months. :)

  7. James from TX Says:

    2,

    A large portion of the Santorum support is swing voters that have change candidates more times than you can count on one hand. I think half will switch to a split between Romney and Gingrich. It was a grand slam for Romney. He ensured his victories in MI and AZ, he will take votes from Santorum and Gingrich is now more likely to stay in the race for a longer period of time.

  8. Boomer Says:

    It wasn’t Romney’s best debate but it was clearly Sanotrum’s worst. He spent far to long trying to explain the intricacies of the earmark process and apologizing for his votes, none of which was going to help him. It sure didn’t help that the crowd gave him multiple, loud boos.

    Being in the spotlight instead of an also ran means the candidates real record will come out instead of the pretend record he wants to run on. Both Romney and Paul were able to put huge dents in Santorum’s claim of being a consistent conservative and that genie is not going back in the bottle.

  9. Killjoy Says:

    time will tell. But I can remember only 2 weeks ago everyone here claiming that the Maine/CPAC combo would mark the beginnig of Romney’s massive comeback and Santorum’s demise.. only to watch day after day the polls move more and more in Santorums direction.. and people here saying.. tomorrow… tomorrow.. just wait… lol

  10. James from TX Says:

    4,

    In my opinion, Romney has never ceased from being the frontrunner other than maybe a few weeks in December.

  11. Killjoy Says:

    #7 half of Santorum’s voters go to Romney!?!?

    ROFL

    seriously, whatever you are taking, I want some!

    Romney has ZERO chance of getting even a SINGLE Santorum voter.

  12. Massachusetts Conservative Says:

    9, 11

    Yep, okay buddy. LOL.

  13. Boomer Says:

    9.

    >>time will tell. But I can remember only 2 weeks ago everyone here claiming that the Maine/CPAC combo would mark the beginnig of Romney’s massive comeback and Santorum’s demise.. only to watch day after day the polls move more and more in Santorums direction.. and people here saying.. tomorrow… tomorrow.. just wait… lol

    Er, the polls have been coming back in Romney’s favor. Polls don’t change overnight, they take a while to move but they are moving now and it looks like it will be just in time to bring the win in MI and AZ. This is a particular interesting poll.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-romneys-favorability-among-republicans-on-the-upswing-20120222,0,516566.story

    Despite what the not Romneys say, Romney is the most popular candidate according to the Republicans.

  14. James from TX Says:

    9,

    Romney’s win in Maine was on a Saturday night and quashed by Whitney Houston. Also, the media was not done with propping Santorum up. I recall people on this board saying that a Maine win was necessary to stop the bleeding, which it did to some extent. Now is the time for Santorum’s downfall. Killjoy, time to move on to your next ABR. Oh wait, there are no more.

  15. rightgal Says:

    2. no maybe not. But I am sure a few switched back to Newt! Which is the same thing!

  16. James from TX Says:

    11,

    I said half of Santorum voters will switch to a SPLIT between Romney and Gingrich (25% each).

  17. James from TX Says:

    There are only 2 groups of people in this primary season that have proven to be a strong base of support. One is Ron Paul’s base of about 10% and the other is Romney’s base (floor) of about 20%.

  18. Matt Coulter Says:

    MEM — “That said, Romney’s had to face far more big front-runner moments than the other fellas and so probably gets a few points for keeping his shit together more often and longer than anyone else.”

    You always have had a way with words. :) Love this sentence.

  19. Watchinitall Says:

    11. From the polls I’ve been watching, a good many of Rick’s supporters are recent converts. Last night they saw Santorum caught in the glare of frontrunner kleiglights, and he looked like he forgot his lines. All of them. All at once.

    In this nomination process, recent converts have turned out to be easily disillusioned and dissipate rather rapidly.

    Rick might not have lost much of their goodwill, but I suspect many of them will find it hard to remember where the polling place is next Tuesday.

  20. Matt "MWS" Says:

    Mitt has had at least two opportunities to close this thing out- after New Hampshire, and after Florida. He was inevitable on both occasions. He was supposed to sweep February, as the schedule this month was gift wrapped in gilt edge and hand delivered to him, complete with flowers and a bow. But he completely blew it. We’ll see if Michigan gives him a third shot at inevitability, and if he can finally close it out.

    Arguably, he could have closed things out following Perry’s implosion, but instead we had the rise of Cain, then Newt, then Rick, then Newt again, and now Rick again.

  21. rightgal Says:

    IMO, if Mitt loses Guam in the primary there, it’s all over for him, and he can’t win. :)

  22. machtyn Says:

    2. Killjoy: From a post in a comment section I saw last night, went something like this: “I didn’t know Santorum supported Arlen Specter. I have some serious reconsideration to do.”

    In any case, I find it laughable and sad that even the slightly more fair and balanced Fox News radio news reports came out and stated there was “no clear winner in the debate last night.” Going as far as to say Santorum and Romney did just as well as each other. This is the report going out on many Clear Channel Radio station half-hour news broadcasts this morning.

  23. michael Says:

    Vest is unravelling…beautiful!

  24. asparagus Says:

    The worst bit for Santorum was when Romney drew him into defending his vote on Title 10. It got so bad for him he had to pivot to attacking Romneycare to get himself out of the tangled web he had created.

  25. Patrick Henry Says:

    20 – I’m not sure how you come to that conclusion when the world was against him. Romney’s been assailed from both sides, so the meme that he’s the “chosen” one isn’t entirely accurate. In fact, I think it’s a meme created to then be able to take him down. “He’s the ‘establishment’ candidate.” “He’s the annointed one”… or whatever else he’s been called. I don’t think his team has EVER thought they had it in the bag. They may have hoped, but it’s clear from his delegate counts that they planned for a long slog to ensure a victory.

    Did they forsee all this? Probably not. Mostly, I think they’re probably a little surprised by the 180 done by the talking heads about him after 2008. But I haven’t heard anyone from their camp, including Romney, ever expecting this process to be a cakewalk.

    And, I’m grateful it isn’t. He (Romney, or whoever the nominee is) needed to be toughed up for the GE. Not having all this come out before would be disastrous later. It becomes “old news”. You can prepare for it. So, as Romney himself has said, a longer processes is probably better in the long run.

  26. machtyn Says:

    20. Inevitability led to complacency. You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

  27. Flagkeeper Says:

    Santourum got Rominated and Paulverized!

    or

    Mittslapped and Ronsacked?

  28. Flagkeeper Says:

    25- agreed.

  29. Matt "MWS" Says:

    Patrick,

    The Rombots have been promoting Mitt as the “inevitable Next In Line” ever since the Summer of ’08.

    Mitt was running last Spring and Summer an anti-Obama campaign like it was Fall ’12. Acting as the presumptive nominee was a big part of his strategy. Given the munchkins in the field, that sort of made sense, but the risks in it are now apparent. He dared those who wanted a real campaign to find someone, and he spent too little time building his own brand. Having now offered up so much negativity, his Favs have suffered greatly, without the mitigating impact that an early positive campaign would have had.

  30. Frozone Says:

    #11. Sorry to deflate, but I have personally talked to several Santorum “supporters” (recent converts, like all the rest) that have Romney as their second choice. Not only is the switch much more likely than you think, some have already done so. And it only takes 1 to pop your hyperbole.

    The world is not as black and white as you would like it to be.

    Thanks for keeping it interesting (you aren’t Craig for FOTM using a proxy server and a pseudonym, are you?)

  31. Frozone Says:

    As to the FPP: the Icarus threshold is 15%, below which Romney has never dipped and to which all the others are fated to return, as Romney continues a slow rise with each cycle:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/republican_presidential_nomination-1452.html

    For some, the wax melts, for others, the gold is refined.

  32. K.G. Says:

    #27 Flag: Pretty funny.

    Mitt needed to destroy Newt in FL and he did. Mitt needed to destroy Rick in AZ and he did. If nothing else, it proves that neither Newt nor Rick can go up against Obama. When the heat’s on, they melt, just like Matt C. said.

  33. John Says:

    The true Rick is not ready for the job and he has no leadership style and no experienced to qualify for the presidency and there are no time for job training in the white house as we have the current president that is enough,we must stand strong with the experienced and most qualify for the presidency Mitt to replace the inexperienced that lead us in to the States of welfare,unemployment and debt.we must not just turn by the wind from the good talker,the handsome,the sexy but no resume and no track record to do the job, we need a good worker, a good leader,we don’t need a follower as Obama any more.

  34. K.G. Says:

    #31: Frozone

    For some, the wax melts, for others, the gold is refined.

    Excellent point.

    The rest are whining that Mitt “destroyed” them with his mean money. No. If you look at the real recent history, they destroyed themselves with their own inadequacies. Like Mitt says: A brutal campaign doesn’t weakened us, it prepares us.

    Mr. K.G. said he heard Newt had dropped out of MI to give Rick his votes. Add that to Operation KOS and the Dems voting for Sant, and MI is still an known. The uphill slog continues, but the Mitt Machine Marches On.

  35. K.G. Says:

    #34: Oops. Still an “un”known.

  36. Crystalf Says:

    #31 Nicely said.

  37. Patrick Henry Says:

    http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/debate-santorum-romney-gingrich/2012/02/22/id/430271 – what debate were they watching?

    Newsmax has been in the tank for Santorum.

    Today, Rush starts out with the “Rand Paul get’s a position in the Romney administration, VP maybe?” meme…

    It’ll be a miracle if Romney wins with all the efforts against him.

  38. K.G. Says:

    #37 Surprise, surprise, surprise. It kind of makes you sick, huh.

    Absurdly dishonest.

  39. Reed Says:

    37

    I shared that article with my wife and she echoed you saying “what debate were they watching?”

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