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Romney Takes Off the Gloves in Final Florida Debate     Permalink

Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney understood the stakes of last night's debate in Jacksonville, Florida. If Gingrich wins Florida, he gets to continue his quest for the nomination, at least until Super Tuesday (March 6). If Romney wins Florida, it is all over but the shoutin'. Most of the time last night, Romney played offense and Gingrich played defense, which worked to Romney's advantage. To do well, Gingrich has to get everyone's blood boiling, and he really didn't do that much.

The candidates fought on immigration, taxes, health care, and other topics, with Romney landing a few punches, but Gingrich not so many. At one point Romney said that if one of the people working for him had ever proposed colonizing the moon (as Gingrich has proposed), Romney would have fired him on the spot. Gingrich had more than enough opportunities to stick it to Romney and always let them pass. It is as if his debate performance depends on what kind of a mood he happens to be in at the moment. In contrast, Romney has shown that he is disciplined and when push comes to shove, he is able to focus and fight. That will come in handy during October, since Obama is a skilled debater.

All cub reporters are told that "man bites dog" is a better story than "dog bites man." Politico clearly understood that when it ran the headline "Newt bites Wolf, Wolf bites back" about Gingrich attacking moderator Wolf Blitzer and Blitzer hitting right back. The scuffle arose when Blitzer asked Gingrich if he was satisfied with Romney's financial disclosures. Instead of saying: "No, what is Romney hiding in all those tax havens?" he told Blitzer that was a nonsense question. Blitzer shot back: "Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that Romney lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts." But even after this, Gingrich continued to evade the question until Romney piped up: "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to make here?" It was truly a Pawlenty moment (in Iowa, then-candidate Tim Pawlenty coined the word "Obamneycare" and got a lot of publicity about it, but when asked about it in one of the debates, he copped out, and that was the end of Pawlenty).

At one point, Romney said: "I have earned the money that I have. I didn't inherit it." He may later regret that he said that. His father, George Romney, was CEO of American Motors and extremely wealthy himself. When he died in 1995, probably his fortune went to his wife, Lenore. When she died in 1998, most likely it was split over their four children, so Mitt probably got a quarter of his father's fortune. No doubt there will now be calls for Romney to release the estate tax returns of both his father and mother. The amount Mitt got was probably small potatoes compared to what he has earned himself, but more calls for him to release more tax returns followed by more stonewalling will just reinforce the idea that he is hiding things.

Rick Santorum turned in a decent performance last night, which helps Romney in two ways. First, some conservatives will vote for him Tuesday and most of those votes would otherwise have gone to Gingrich. Second, this is the moment of truth for Santorum. The meeting of top evangelical leaders in Texas 2 weeks ago where they agreed to consolidate around him was too little too late. Santorum is not going to be the Republican nominee and he surely knows that. He has a choice to make within a day. He can stay in the race, get 10-15% of the vote Tuesday, then if Romney wins, congratulate him on his all-but-certain nomination. Or, like Rick Perry, he can drop out a few days before the vote, endorse Gingrich and help him win Tuesday, letting the battle continue for another month. If Santorum had really messed up in the debate, he might be inclined to throw in the towel, but with a good performance, he may be tempted to take time off from campaigning this weekend and devote it to praying for a miracle.

Ron Paul also showed up last night. He invited the other candidates to go bicycle riding with him in Texas. He may well be the last man standing after Santorum and Gingrich eventually give up, but he is irrelevant unless he decides to run as a Libertarian.

This race has had 100-years-worth of twists and turns and who knows what will happen this weekend, but if Santorum stays in and Romney wins on Tuesday, it is going to be tough for anyone to stop him.

Romney Failed to List Foreign Investments on Legal Form     Permalink

The Los Angeles Times has been studying Mitt Romney's 2010 tax return. By comparing the tax return to the financial disclosure form Romney filed last August, it has discovered 23 investments on the tax return that were not on the financial disclosure form, including 11 in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Luxembourg, all notorious tax havens. Romney said these omissions were minor errors and he would correct them. But he won't be able to correct them fast enough to stop DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz from making commercials suggesting that he is a sleazy multimillionaire who hides his money in foreign tax havens and then fails to report this as required by law. It is already clear that the major line of attack the Democrats are going to use against Romney is his wealth and his ability to do things that ordinary Americans can't do. It is jujitsu like what the Republicans used against John Kerry in 2004, using his history as a military hero against him.

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Previous headlines

Jan25 Obama Lays Groundwork for a Populist Campaign in State-of-the-Union Speech
Jan24 Romney Releases 2010 Tax Return
Jan24 Role Reversal in the Debate: Romney Attacks, Gingrich Plays Defense
Jan24 Fred Thompson Endorses Newt Gingrich
Jan22 Gingrich Crushes Romney in South Carolina
Jan20 Perry Drops Out and Endorses Gingrich
Jan20 Gingrich Surging in South Carolina
Jan20 Gingrich's Second Wife Attacks Him
Jan20 Romney Loses His Win in Iowa
Jan20 Romney Reported to Have Millions of Dollars in the Cayman Islands
Jan20 The Final Four Take Off the Gloves in the Last Debate before the South Carolina Primary
Jan17 Hard-Hitting Debate in South Carolina Changes Nothing
Jan16 Huntsman Expected to Drop Out Today and Endorse Romney
Jan16 Why is the Republican Field So Weak?
Jan16 South Carolina Debate Tonight
Jan15 Social Conservatives Agree to Back Santorum
Jan13 Eleventh Commandment Repealed
Jan11 NH: Romney 39%, Paul 23%, Huntsman 17%, Gingrich 9%, Santorum 9%
Jan11 Charlie Cook: Redistricting is Politically Neutral
Jan10 Romney Leads Going into the New Hampshire Primary Today
Jan10 Gingrich Goes Negative in South Carolina
Jan08 Romney Survives Debate Unscathed
Jan08 Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Jan05 Bachmann Drops Out
Jan05 Perry Hesitates, but Stays In
Jan05 Movement Conservatives Attempt to Find a Consensus Candidate
Jan04 Iowa: Romney 24.6%, Santorum 24.6%, Paul 21.4%, Gingrich 13.3%
Jan03 All Eyes on Iowa Today
Jan03 The Horse Race as a Horse Race
Jan01 Happy New Presidential Election Year
Jan01 Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday
Jan01 Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising
Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
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

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