Wednesday’s Arizona Debate and Why Mitt Romney Lost

CNN Debate: The Last Round-up?

The whole debate was set up as a “get-Rick” affair.  Gingrich shined and seemed to return to pre-Florida form, and Romney seemed to fall back to the same place despite an audience reportedly stacked in his favor[again.]  Santorum was honest about his failings in most respects, and one might even say he was a bit pragmatic.  Romney pressed an idiotic argument about earmarks after admitting that while he headed up the Olympics, or serving as Governor, he actually sought them out.  It’s an impossibly self-contradictory argument to suggest earmarks are bad while going to the federal government to ask for them, but Romney did worse than that.

When John King asked interrupted Romney to repeat the actual focus of the question, Romney said he would answer as he damned well pleased, though in other words. The question that had been asked was what misconception the candidate would most like to correct.  Romney began giving his generic, flowery stump speech, and he received a few boos from the audience in response.  The problem is this:  Romney could have taken the opportunity to say “Many people think I’m not conservative enough, but that’s not true because…” but he didn’t.  Why?  Simply, it would admit a negative about him everybody in the room knew all too well: He’s not conservative.

The other problem he had in this debate was the frequency with which he was a yes-man.  On a number of issues, he pointed to one or more of his opponents, and said effectively: “What he said.”  He would use his time to more or less restate the positions of his opponents with whom he agreed, but he offered very little new or in any way unique in his expressions of general agreement.  I kept wondering:  “Well, if you agree with these guys, why do we need you?”  In this sense, Romney did nothing to differentiate himself from the other two, which is the problem many expect in the general if he gets the nomination.  He’s simply too willing to agree, and he has nothing to offer that places his own signature on any issue.

In contrast, Santorum was hammered at every opportunity, by Romney and Paul.  Gingrich, who served in Congress, knew full well the truth of Santorum’s argument about what it sometimes takes to get a thing done in Congress, and there are some political realities with which one must contend.  You often will not get the things you want, and you may have to swallow some bitter pills to see your priorities enacted.  This is why legislative processes are often compared to the making of sausage:  It isn’t pretty to watch.  Nevertheless, Santorum took the brunt a few times, despite the fact that it was undeserved.

Ron Paul needs to go home.  After what I learned earlier in the evening about his betrayals, and how he’s clearly helping Mitt Romney, it’s time for Paul to go home.  He won’t, but he should.  He played Romney’s attack dog on Santorum throughout the debate, and it was so obvious that I waited for him to break out a Romney campaign pin.  It was shameful.  I’m surprised Santorum held his cool so well as he did.

Romney lost the debate, whether the voters watching from home noticed or not, and it was sickening to see him rely on Paul for the Santorum double-team.  His unwillingness to engage with his own answers, or offer anything unique to them should give you a sense of what sort of miserable President he would make, and when he had an opportunity to correct misconceptions about him, rather than exploiting it, he gave a stump speech.  You think this guy can beat Obama?

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  • Rogue Rose

    I never thought Mitt could win. I'm even less convinced (if that's possible) now.

  • http://blogtruth.wordpress.com Atticus Finch

    Mitt didn't have to win – he just didn't have to lose. Santorum was portrayed as an inside man. That hurt him. Gingrich stayed out of it and played the statesman – good for him. Ron Paul made good points, but mostly ones the common man can't understand.

    Mitt Romney wins by default, unfortunately.

    • JohnInFlorida

      "Ron Paul made good points, but mostly ones the common man can’t understand."

      Gee, I feel so inadequate …

      I'm too stoopid to understand the good points Ron Paul made …

      It's a good thing I'm not too stoopid to understand that Ron Paul hasn't a clue regarding our interactions with the rest of the world.

      • http://blogtruth.wordpress.com Atticus Finch

        I just meant most people do not understand the issues with monetary policy – how the federal government controls the money supply – the consequences of that. Also a lot of people do not understand his position on foreign policy and see him as an isolationist b/c he doesn't advocate war. Not that anyone is "stoopid" just that they have bought into establishment viewpoints.

        • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

          I understand him perfectly on both issues. I agree with him on monetary policy in broad terms. I do not agree with his foreign policy, which while representative of early American foreign policy, is not practical, and could be suicidal in today's world. There's a big difference between an era when it took weeks and weeks to make a trans-Atlantic crossing, and today, when an ICBM can deliver death to any corner of the globe in under 25 minutes. This is why Ron Paul's foreign policy doesn't work. It has nothing to do with the establishment, and everything to do with logic. That the establishment sides with reason in this instance doesn't make it their issue. Every person should be able to see the plain truth about what happens in a world with a nuclear Iran. That Ron Paul doesn't speaks to a naive bias in his thinking. Once more, just because he sees the world that way doesn't mean that's how the world really is. IF every person on the planet could be relied upon to be that reasonable, he might have an argument, but people like Ahmedinejad aren't exactly stymied by logic or rational discourse.

          • http://blogtruth.wordpress.com Atticus Finch

            I do not disagree, but I think we have to be honest about our history in the middle east. We aren't an enemy of Iran because America is rich, but rather because we have been over there. Iran isn't targeting Canada… This isn't blaming America or Americans this is just a plain fact that we've been interveining in mid-eastern politics for decades.

            Lets have a strong defense. Monitor Iran. If they try to get weapons that could reach accross the world – stop it. If they fire at us, wipe them off the map. Just stop interviening preemptively in their lives. We can't afford it as a nation.

            Besides the Iraeli people and prime minister have said numerous times they DO NOT want us in their business. They DO NOT want our help.

            Those arguing for war should be the first ones to sign up for it. Stop sending the guys from my high school who couldn't afford or get into college so they sign up for the Army for a paycheck and free tuition.

            • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

              They are developing those weapons now. They are in the early deployment phase of a missile with a range of 1500 miles, and in the development phase of a missile with a range of over 6000, perhaps as much as 7500, which would certainly be sufficient to reach us. What do you propose? Shall we wait until missiles are in the air? You see, this is the problem: If Iran has its way, your first notice will be a bit like 9-11, but with mushroom clouds. The Iranians have been state sponsors of terrorism for decades now, and I don't think pretending otherwise is going to augment US security, and instead stands a fair chance of costing many Americans their lives. I'd be interested to know what you propose to do.

              • http://blogtruth.wordpress.com Atticus Finch

                Iran knows that sending a missle our way would be suicide. They also know that the US leaves countries like Pakistan, who has nuclear weapons, alone. There is logic to there reasoning. We can't send out troops in to any country who develops weapons – do you not see the flawed logic in doing the exact thing to other countries in which we fear them doing to us?

              • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

                Two things: "Iran knows that sending a missle our way would be suicide"

                1. Do they know it? Would it be? With our current President?
                2. If they do, would they care? Would it simply advance their notions of martyrdom?

                Here's the flaw in your argument, writ large: You are projecting onto the Iranian GOVERNMENT the same rational standards you hold. I think that is a faulty conclusion. Stop assuming they think exactly like us. They do not.

              • http://blogtruth.wordpress.com Atticus Finch

                Do you have any evidence that they are not rational human beings? Ahmadinejad wants to maintain power. To assume that he is not a rational human being – that is desire to live – is a big assumption.

                Your argument hinges on a belief that because he doesn't think exactly like us he is irational to the point that he would be willing to destroy the country he wants to rule over.

                Again, we are willing to send troops, man of which will certainly die, to a war based on an uncertain beleif that the Irianians A.) are irational to the point of suicide B.) have the ability to get WMD's in which can reach the US C.) the US cannot stop them from obtaining WMD's without war.

                I think that argument is the irational one.

      • http://twitter.com/Yoosh1 Yoosh (@Yoosh1)

        If I may add, WE may not be at war with Iran. However, are you familiar with jihad? It is an Islamic edict which says God wants you to kill, a holy war in the name of Islam. If you are a Muslim it is your duty to carry out this order by any means necessary including blowing yourself up.
        At one point, Islam used to be the center of the world and the apex of society. Today, Islam is a 3rd world religion in a 3rd world region. Its followers will stop at nothing to once again be rulers of the world.
        The West (US) represents the greatest obstacle because it has been so successful through freedom, justice and liberty. And Israel, with very similar views as the US, blossoms right in the heart of the middle east, while the Islamic countries suffer in misery and poverty, dreaming of a comeback.
        So, its not a question of if Iran will attack, but a question of when. To sit back and allow them to obtain nuclear weapons is not only extremely dangerous, but shows a complete lack of clarity of the greater picture on our part. Now do you see why something has to be done? If we wait it may be too late!

  • http://www.facebook.com/BarbaraHaney100 Barbara Haney

    Mark, once again, great blog post. There is a great video that reworks one of Ron Paul's ads; you find it worth a chuckle http://youtu.be/vWetYsEIV2E

  • Shylock

    I totally, disagree with any assertion that Romney lost the debate. It was a debate for Santorum to take that seat in the middle and retain his momentum as frontrunner and after Ron Paul one-word answer that he was a "FAKE", he was unnerved for the rest of the night. Advantage Romney. By the way, I agree with Romney to not addressing any misconception about himself as not being "Conservative" directly. He was right to ignore that false claim by his detractors, for that is what it really is, to the majority of voters in all his victories to date as the leader in delegates.

  • Shylock

    Good try, Mark!

  • Keith Sparbanie

    LET THEM EAT CAKE, DEPT.: Don't believe for a minute that the GOP's Dog and Pony Show held in Mesa tonight was filled with rank and file Republicans and conservatives. It was totally an event for the establishment elite. Besides invited big-name dignitaries and media types, the room was filled with deep-pocketed movers and shakers who became members of the AZGOP's Trunk 'n Tusk Speakers Series in order to score premium seating. Memberships were available at several price points: $1,500; $2,500; $5,000; and yes, $10,000. The funds raised are earmarked for the "AZGOP Early Voting Program." Nothing like convincing 100's of thousands of people to vote BEFORE all candidates are completely vetted, huh? Then, there were those NOT in the auditorium who paid $500 each to attend a "Viewing Party" with an After Debate VIP Reception with Governor Brewer. By the way, I'm not picking on the Republican Party. Those liberal hot shots in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco who paid $35,800 each to attend a DNC fundraising dinner with Obama make me want to puke, too. Just sayin'… P.S. Stacked in Mittens Favor? Well, Mesa isn't Salt Lake City, but it is LDS country… the Arizona Temple is about a mile from the debate site.

    • http://northcentralpatriot.wordpress.com Misty C. Williams

      Sadly accurate, Sadly no surprise.
      As for me, "I'll think what I thunk before"…
      Romney is slick like a snake oil salesman. Paul is a loose cannon. Gingrich is just not…can't put my finger on it, but no. Santorum is the only one up there that registers with me as a conservative–the kind of conservative that is not going to give up being a conservative to get elected, or drop a facade once elected. Just my think-so.

  • Betty

    "if you agree with these guys, why do we need you?"

    I thought that more then once. And, more then once, while one or the other candidate described what kind of president we needed and they would be, I thought, you're describing Newt not your self. And that was reinforced by Newt himself with his incredible answers. He has such a grasp of everything, history, the legislative process, the problems we face in foreign affairs, our borders, our energy future, our economy, our education system, over regulation, government over reach that he can take a narrow almost naive question, answer it any put it into a broader setting and answer that question too so that the questioner sits down and thinks – gosh I'm smart.

    I agree Ron Paul needs to go home. It was so obvious last night that he is Romney's attack dog and is working to ensure his sons future not ours, or his poor loyal followers. Gosh I hope the people of MI and AZ give them both the smacking they deserve for their performance last night.

    You could tell the audience was stacked again last night. Newt made obvious strong points and once or twice there was a pause in the response of the audience and then loud cheers, I could almost hear them thinking – we're not supposed to cheer for Newt but gosh he's so right. Once I saw Ron Paul gesture and a loud boo aimed at Santourm followed and I couldn't help but wonder if Paul had people watching for his signal.

    And all the wile the look on Romney face, as though he flies with angels while all the while he is such a nasty sob that he astonished even Newt Gingrich, really turns me off.

    Thank you for being here and giving me a place to air my thoughts.

  • Betty

    Should be: The look on Romney face, as though he flies with angels while all the while he is such a nasty sob that he astonished even Newt Gingrich, really turns me off.

  • Randal Phillips

    I've stopped watching the debates. They're so staged and, except for an occasional outburst of brilliance from Newt, lackluster. I could live with either Newt or Santorum in the White House, but we will get neither. The GOP has begun to shed its shabby cloak of conservative. For the first time it is becoming apparent to many that America has NO conservative party on the national level. The Democrat style packaging of Obamney is all the proof we need. The country doesn't have four years left in it and the GOP has committed treason.

    • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

      Randal, I'm with you on this. The whole thing is a sideshow at present. They have been pushing one after another up, only to chop their legs off, but at no time have they done this to Romney, or Ron Paul, and that should be the tell for anybody watching this charade.

      • http://twitter.com/Yoosh1 Yoosh (@Yoosh1)

        I agree with both of you. It seems like the democrats have turned into socialists, the republicans have turned into democrats, and there is hardly anyone left in Washington to represent conservatives.
        It is almost maddening. If the gop shoves romney down our throats, and he turns out to be the one going against obama, I will have no choice but to vote for him. But I will do so bitterly because this so called republican party does not represent me or what I believe in.
        Hopefully the above nightmare wont happen and we can get a Newt/Rick ticket. But my comment about the gop still stands!

      • MaryL

        Run, Sarah, run!

    • Stuart Wright

      Randal, I would like to address something that you and others have said, and that is "The Republican Party is not conservative" (Or words to that effect. While I grant you that anyone who goes to Washington seems to lose their way (Hello Rick & Newt), the Republican Party is not made up of a 20 guys in a smoke-filled room known as "The Establishment." The Republican Party is made up of Republican VOTERS – people like you & me. WE are the ones who decide who our nominee will be, and not "The Establishment." Now, you may not like the nominee we get (Lord knows, I was not a McCain fan). But our nominee comes from a fair process where we the People elect a nominee through the Primary/Caucus system. If you do not like our nominee, blame other Republican voters – not the system.

  • Stuart Wright

    Dead Wrong. Let me count the ways:

    1) "Get Rick" debate? Well Hell, how many "Get Mitt", Get Herman", "Get Newt", and "Get Perry" debates have we seen? Whenever someone becomes the front runner, then you can bet they will be a target. This is nothing new at all.

    2) Romney got earmarks for the Olympics? DUH!!! The federal government ALWAYS funds the Olympics. But here is the thing. Nobody has a problem with spending money for Olympics or to build a bridge – even if that bridge is to Nowhere. But you put it in the budget!!! Earmarks puts spending in important sections, such as the defense bill, where the President either has to approve the earmarks, or veto the defense appropriations. This is one of the major reasons Washington is so screwed up. Now, you would think that someone of the brilliance of MARK AMERICA could figure that out.

    3) As for King's question: Good for Mitt!. Why is it that when Newt challenges the media he gets a standing ovation? But Mitt must mind his manners to the poor CNN moderator. It was a stupid ass question to begin with, so good for Mitt to take the time to say what he wanted.

    4) Mark America, you have selective memory when you complain about Mitt being a "Yes Man." All the candidates agreed with one another more than once. Rick did so, and a couple times said he said "I agree with Gov. Romney". Go back and read the transcripts.

    5) Re: Ron Paul: Now, Mark America, please take off the conspiracy hat and THINK for just a moment. Romney is clearly the best financed, and most organized candidate. While others have come and gone (Twice for Newt), Mitt has been at or near the top of the leader board throughout the entire contest. So it makes perfect sense for Ron Paul to go after the guys in second place to elevate his standing. He knows he will not win. But a 2nd place would look very good to him. And to do obtain that goal, he has to train his fire on Newt & Rick. Now, doesn't that make greater sense than the new conspiracy: That Rand would be Romney's running mate … which would never happen? As Spock would say, "Logic"

    6) Finally, Romney did not "lose the debate." He clearly unraveled Santorum with facts, such as Rick's support for Arlen Specter that paved the way for ObamaCare.

    Actually, I personally thought that all 4 preformed quite well. The "winner" is in the eye of the beholder, which means, whichever candidate you support, that is who you think won the debate.