Arizona Republican Presidential Debate: Republicans Now Have All the Information They Need; Romney Should Be the Nominee

–Richard E. Vatz

Last night’s Republican debate broke no new ground: no new and significantly inconsistent positions were broached.

The only new insights concerned Rick Santorum. When the possible frontrunner, he is no longer phlegmatic. It’s hard to be the object of harsh contenders who think you are now their greatest threat.

Having said that, let me argue that Santorum hurt himself with the persistent iteration that he made mistakes: Voting for No Child Left Behind, earmarks, voting for omnibus bills that had irresponsible amendments, etc. He periodically brought it up…why?

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But the consensus that he destroyed himself or severely hurt himself in the debate was fostered to a large extent by the fact that the audience was simply not on his side. It is easy to hiss and boo anything anyone says and have others think it therefore has some credibility.

The reason the Republicans should not nominate Santorum is that he is simply too conservative to win in November.

Mitt Romney can, but probably won’t, win in November, but he has a chance. Once again, his articulation and being on top of a multitude of issues and being able to articulate them well bodes positively for him. The anti-Mormon bias from which he suffers is something that everyone apparently thinks should not be discussed.

Newt was wonkishly impressive, but his time has passed; he is not personally electable, and Ron Paul obviously is not either.

Moderator John King was less liberally offensive, but not by much…he still frames questions in a way to make Republicans look bad – “X said you’re a damn hypocrite regarding earmarks last week; do you agree?” – and he brings up minor issue after minor issue that redounds against Republican prospect of victory – [paraphrase] so, what think you about birth control?

A few minutes at the end of the debate focused on the foreign policy mess around the world after King emphasized the “women in combat” issue as pre-eminent. Oh, and he had them all describe themselves in a single word – good for 12 year-old viewers. I loved Gingrich’s choice, denigrating the exercise: “Cheerful.”

Overall a not useless final debate (one hopes), albeit one with some diminishing returns.

If Republicans don’t realize that Mitt Romney is the best candidate substantively and has the best chance to beat President Barack Obama, they deserve to lose.

Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion Kendall Hunt, 2012)

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