The battle between Newt and Mitt was fierce in tonight’s Jacksonville, Florida CNN Republican debate!
Self-deportation started the night off. That ought to give you a clue right there as to the level of discourse. Santorum is worried about illegals stealing our Social Security cards, but I ask, what does that matter if a Republican wins in 2012? Social Security will be privatized by any and all of them and hence worthless.
Wolf Blitzer suggested that only a few folks offered to self-deport when it was an option, but that didn’t stop the very important discussion regarding self-deportation. Romney says no one will round up “Americans” but he corrected (or self-deported?) himself. He meant that no one wants to round up illegals. He showed some compassion for illegal immigrants. That might play in Florida, sir, but it won’t play with your base!
All the Republicans were pretending they weren’t for rounding up illegal immigrants, which was a smart move in Florida, and I think they all deserve a prize for pretending to be compassionate for a night!
Newt was very concerned about English being our official language, which was odd given his promise to put Sarah Palin in his administration, but whatever. Newt said that Romney was the most anti-immigrant among all the candidates, justifying his ugly ad against Romney. Romney was appalled by the over the top rhetoric! It hurts Republicans to be on the receiving end of their own rhetoric and certainly we can all understand why that is so.
Newt pretended he didn’t want to deport people like Grandmas, but that’s not what he told Laura Ingraham years ago. No one called him on this, of course. To be fair, Newt supported aspects of the DREAM Act years ago before a Democratic took office and says he supports aspects of it now. Newt’s two faces make Mittens look like a unified person!
Newt pretended to be compassionate for illegal immigrants to great cheers, but Mittens took his thunder by saying, “Our problem isn’t 11 million grandmothers!”
Santorum suggested that we must not stand with the Marxists of this country (that would be you) and somehow this means you’re with us or against us and illegals need to go! There’s nothing practical here, since it was Bush who kicked down the borders for cheap labor for his buddies, and we all know that he was “with” America, at least as much as he could be given his family’s ties to our enemies.
But the worst moment was after Romney pretended he didn’t know his own ads again (distancing himself from a nasty Gingrich ad). Moments later the moderator Wolf Blitzer corrected him, announcing that it was his ad. The audiences’ loud ooh/boo was damning.
Then Newt attacked Romney for owning investments that made money off of foreclosures. Romney’s eyes looked like a little lost boy. He announced stiffly that he doesn’t make his own investments and doesn’t know what he has in his portfolio!
Romney then stuck the Newt knife into back into Newt by announcing that he, too, had the same investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The audience was beside itself as the gladiators circled each other, blood dripping from their portfolios.
Santorum defended Mitt and Newt for being rich and smart, and urged everyone to stop playing petty politics of personal destruction. A pause while we wonder if he realizes that he’s a Republican who does that every day. Ron Paul managed to use Fannie and Freddie to work in a dog whistle in about affirmative action.
Newt announced that Mitt was unaware of his ads and his investments. That sorta hurt, because it made Romney look like a helpless idiot to the Republican crowd who covets an alpha male in words (but a coward who hides from the draft in deed) who will pretend to be a “decider.” Poor Ron Paul tried to steer us to what was really important, but he was roundly ignored by everyone but the audience.
The audience booed poor Wolf Blitzer when he was holding Newt’s feet to the fire regarding his accusations about Romney’s Cayman’s accounts. Newt tried to wiggle out of it by sneering at Wolf that he should ask questions that were pertinent to the American people.
This is the moment that stood out for CNN (a backbone for once?). Wolf shot back something like, “You’re the one who said this, Mr. Speaker.”
Newt never seemed to recover from Wolf standing up to him and denying him the ability to run the narrative.
The truth is that none of the Republicans want to talk about their personal finances or money made by lobbying or what taxes they pay. The audience booed poor Wolf again when he asked another question about taxes. Yes, it’s dirty to ask Republicans about their ethics and if they are playing by the same rules as the rest of us. Naughty Wolf!
Newt wanted America to know that he is not upset about Mitt’s low tax rate. He wants everyone to pay Mitt’s low rate! How he will pay for the wars he wants is anyone’s guess, but I guess his plan is the usual Republican plan: Pass it On to the Next Democrat.
Ron Paul went for the dirty with talks about the 99%, Wall Street, and the transfer of money to the wealthy. He didn’t think taxes are the answer though. “There’s a big difference between those who earn money and those who rip off the government.” Ouch, Dr. Paul!
An audience member who is unemployed asked about what they would do for her in terms of health insurance. She was offered the “opportunity” to be employed, and her question nicely gave the candidates a chance to bash Obama for the Affordable Health Care Act and try to hang Mitt on RomneyCare.
Romney tried to pretend he knew what happened to Americans who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs, suggesting that you might not have the same insurance and might lose it. I can tell he’s never had to make a COBRA payment. But in the end, this issue wasn’t the hot button illegal immigration was during this debate.
Newt employed great stage craft tonight in playing a fighter, though someone needs to remind him that Obama got Osama and he might need to leave his “Obama is appeasing our enemies” for the base. He didn’t manage to knock Romney out by any means, but Gingrich has a way with a live audience.
As tempting as it is to nominate Wolf Blitzer with clown of the night for his gagalicious softball question about whose wife would make the best first lady, as far as I know he is not a Republican candidate of record (anything could happen in this race). FYI, Santorum wins this for having the most kids, which is apparently the indicator of worth for women in the Republican Party.
But, Wolf actually asked two hard questions tonight which is a huge step for CNN (aka: the B List Tea Party Network), so, I’m going to have to nominate Mitt Romney as the Clown of the Night.
Newt hit Romney hard, and while Romney fought back, his lame excuse that he didn’t invest his own money faltered. He sounded too tenuous. He explained that he did this to keep from having a conflict of interest (from what, we don’t know, as he is not an elected official). Romney might win Florida, but he showed us tonight exactly why he is going to be weak in a general election.
Romney was on the defensive tonight and his voice wasn’t strong. It’s not as if he couldn’t have anticipated this line of questioning! Did he really have no idea when he started this run that his tax returns and financial investments would be an issue? Today, he got busted for errors in his tax returns. He had to know this was going to come up. Blaming problems on his trustee was weak, especially for someone who is running to be the leader of the free world.
This, on top of Romney’s denial that he was behind an ad that he was behind, made him look weak and sleazy. And that’s tough to pull off standing next to Newt Gingrich. Even Romney calling President Obama’s State of the Union “Groundhog Day” and his suggesting that Obama is anti-America won’t save him from clown of the night. It’s easy for him to stand up to Obama because Obama isn’t in front of him.
Romney’s sense of entitlement to the nomination combined with his weak public persona make him the clown of the night.Romney needs to learn to publicly embrace the mean! It’s a winner in his party, and he just doesn’t have it.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.