If you scored this debate on points, then Mitt Romney won. Romney was able to get all of the arguments against McCain into this debate, and he was very effective in laying out the case against John McCain. Senator McCain is determined to make an issue out of something that Governor Romney said about timetables, and make him appear to be weak on the war in Iraq, just like the Democrats. He doesn’t have the evidence for that. Sure Romney could have had a stronger answer initially, but McCain has no additional evidence that Mitt Romney didn’t support the surge, once he got up-to-speed on what was going to happen. Mitt Romney isn’t comfortable being on the attack. He did land some punches on McCain, and he defended his own Massachusetts record the best he could. But once the focus gets off of Mitt’s strength (the economy) and shifts to the war in Iraq, that’s McCain’s home turf and Romney is a lot less comfortable talking about the war.
It’s a shame that we couldn’t see McCain/Romney head-to-head before Super Tuesday. They have plenty of differences that need to be further explored that we didn’t get to Wednesday night. Those two REALLY don’t like each other. I’m sure somebody will fact-check McCain’s slippery answers on immigration and his flip-flop on the reason for previously opposing the Bush tax cuts (twice). He said on Meet the Press on Sunday that in fact he would sign his own amnesty bill if it got to his desk. I’ve quoted it in a previous post. Then tonight, he said no, and then launched into the canned talking points he mentioned on Sunday. I feel like a broken record here talking about McCain’s record. His VP, Huck, is also ok with McCain’s views on immigration. He isn’t any more serious about bringing accountability to border security / immigration policy than McCain is.
Let’s talk about McCain and the tax cuts. His initial reason for opposing the tax cuts was that they “favored the wealthy too much”. Now he says that the reason was that Bush’s tax cuts were not offset by spending cuts. He was called on this by Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times. McCain ignores that part of the question, and instead repeats his new position that tax cuts should require spending cuts. I’m sympathetic to this argument, but McCain is not answering the question she asked, and even though he doesn’t invoke class warfare in his answer at this point — he does in the rest of the debate.
Huckabee and McCain are shameless in their anti-business rhetoric. I thought one of them would mention the “two Americas” at some point. This isn’t representative of Republicans or of conservatives. We appreciate people who don’t have to (or want to) depend on a government check every month, and who take the initiative to make something of their lives without much interference from the government. Freedom and liberty are conservative ideas. So is personal responsibility for your own success. Small business people take risks, and big corporations take risks. Sometimes they work. Sometimes the small businesses and big corporations have to lay people off. It happens. But the last thing we want to do is demonize the producers in this country, whether it’s people who have big jobs or people who have small jobs. They all drive the economy and make a positive contribution to this country. Stop ripping the rich people. They support your big government agendas. (Of course this could just be anti-Mitt rhetoric, but I think Huck and McCain are talking about more than just Mitt’s personal fortune.)
I hope Mitt did enough, but he’s not comfortable being the attack dog. Maybe his campaign will launch a better assault on McCain’s record than he did in this debate. That’s the only hope he has at this point, regardless of Hugh Hewitt’s support and his rosy scenarios on how Romney pulls off the upset. If he really wants to make a comeback and win more delegates, it might be a good idea to keep running some ads in the Super Tuesday states.
Transcript available here.