GOP presidential debate fallout: Is Mitt Romney becoming inevitable?
At Tuesday's GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney fielded questions deftly, attacked when given an opening, and stayed out of jab-fests. Contenders so far haven't knocked him off stride.
(Page 2 of 2)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“How many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand,” said Mr. Santorum.
Given the predictable few-hands response, Santorum said that was the number of votes Cain would get in the Granite State. He said that in his opinion 9-9-9 couldn’t pass Congress.
Conservatives have long been suspicious of a national sales tax, given that it is an easy form of taxation to manipulate, by expanding or reducing its coverage and its rate. Rep. Michele Bachmann went so far as to make a (strained) analogy between the tax and, well, Satan and the 6-6-6 Mark of the Beast.
“One thing I would say is, when you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details,” said Ms. Bachmann.
Cain, thus, was on the defensive for much of the evening. He did not, however, fumble his answers or appear unprepared, as Perry did in previous debates when he was the target of rival attention.
And what of Perry? He “was virtually invisible for the first half of the debate, getting little attention from moderators – a demoralizing state of affairs for a man who just one month ago was seen as the front-runner for the nomination,” wrote Mr. Montopoli of CBS.
Perry has money and enough committed partisans to go forward. But he’s rapidly becoming the Fred Thompson of the 2012 campaign season, according to Mr. Erickson. Once seen as a formidable presence, as Mr. Thompson was last time around, Perry is quickly fading and shows few signs of trying to turn around his debate presence.
“Perry supporters are emailing me in abject panic,” said Erickson.
As to the rest of the field, Newt Gingrich had a decent night, directing a respectful yet pointed question to Romney about his economic plan and drawing attention by saying that former Sen. Chris Dodd and current Rep. Barney Frank might need to be jailed for their roles in passing bank reform legislation.
Jon Huntsman Jr. got off both the best and worst jokes of the night. He noted that when he’d first heard of Cain’s 9-9-9 he thought “it was the price of a pizza,” drawing laughter from the crowd. (Cain is the former head of a national pizza chain.) But he also made a puzzling reference when asking Romney a question, saying it would be about the economy, the theme of the debate, as opposed to religion.
“Sorry about that Rick,” said Mr. Huntsman, turning to Perry.
This was a reference to an incident in which a Perry supporter publicly referred to Mormons as part of a “cult.” Both Huntsman and Romney are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but the joke was too obscure and fell flat.
IN PICTURES: Republicans in the 2012 presidential race