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No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate     Permalink

Although the 13th and final Republican debate last night in Sioux City, Iowa, was gaffe free, it was unlucky for Newt Gingrich simply because he did not continue with the momentum he had been building the past few weeks. He needed to do that and didn't. In contrast, Mitt Romney looked and acted presidential and mostly attacked Barack Obama rather than his Republican rivals. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry did reasonably well in the sense that neither of them said anything really stupid or fumbled badly--but the bar for them has been set rather low.

Ron Paul attacked Gingrich again and again, as he has been doing for weeks, and his attacks appear to be working. He is slowly rising in the polls and Gingrich is slowly dropping. If the phase of the moon is right and the weather on Jan. 3 is something that Paulites love and everyone else hates, he even has a shot at winning Iowa. But he has no chance of winning any primary or caucus after New Hampshire and zero chance of being the Republican nominee. Among other problems, while his economic program matches Grover Norquist's fairly well (shrink the federal government to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub), his foreign policy stands are anathema to most Republican voters. To start with, he doesn't think Iran is much of a threat and wouldn't do anything even if it were on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. Most other Republicans would either bomb it to smithereens or give Israel permission to do so.

The net result of all 13 debates is we are kind of back where we started. The show started out back in September as Snow White and the seven dwarves, but after Herman Cain dropped out, it mutated into Snow White and the six dwarves. Probably 100 polls have shown that 75-80% of Republican voters do not want Mitt Romney as their nominee. But the opposition is so weak and so fragmented and so inclined to spectacular rises and equally spectacular subsequent falls, that all Romney has to do is stand there, attack Obama, and wait for the rest to self destruct. The thing he has to worry about--and he is certainly doing that--is that he puts a lot of effort into Iowa and loses badly to someone, no matter who. That person would then get momentum going into New Hampshire. If a challenger won Iowa, New Hampshire, and then South Carolina, it would become a two-man race for the nomination (and there is no chance whatsoever it could become a man-woman race) and the campaign might go on for months. If Romney can win Iowa or at least come in not too far behind the winner, he's probably got the nomination sewn up.

It is ironic that the normal situation is reversed this year. Usually the Republicans have a single, strong front runner and the Democrats are squabbling like toddlers. Now it is the other way around. If the also-rans, like Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, and at this point, the once-promising Rick Perry, were to drop out and support Newt Gingrich, conservatives would have a genuine standard bearer in the general election. But since all politicians are egomaniacs (it is a requirement for the job), they will all stay in until after they go down in flames in Iowa, thus helping to nominate the one person in the race they can't stand. On the other hand, indirectly by staying in they are helping democracy since a Romney-Obama race is likely to be a close contest between two fully functional adults, both of whom are clearly capable of actually being President.

But again, this campaign has been so weird that over the Christmas holidays, as families all over Iowa get together and talk politics, who knows what might come out of it.

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Previous headlines

Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
Nov29 Woman Accuses Cain of Long-Running Affair
Nov23 Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
Nov23 Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
Nov19 Newton Defies Gravity
Nov10 Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate
Nov09 Anti-Union Bill Repealed in Ohio
Nov09 Republicans May Take over Virginia State Senate
Nov09 An Egg is Not a Person in Mississippi
Nov06 Romney's Choice
Oct22 Cain First, Romney Real Winner in NV Straw Poll
Oct12 Mitt the Inevitable?
Oct06 Steve Jobs and Politics
Oct06 Palin Will Not Run for President
Sep30 Senate Races 2012