The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Sunday Morning Coming Down in New Hampshire ‘Meet the Depressed’ Debate

Posted on | January 8, 2012 | 14 Comments

After my late night guzzling beer consulting with key sources at the Radisson Hotel bar last night, I slept in this morning at the home of Mike Rogers of Granite Grok, missing the “Meet the Press” debate. Mike’s got it TiVo’d for my later examination, but initial accounts indicate it was far more feisty than the ABC debate. Aaron Goldstein of The American Spectator:

Finally!!! Rick Santorum puts it point blank to Romney. If your record in Massachusetts was so great why didn’t you run for re-election? Why did you bail out? Santorum went to say that while Romney bailed, he was running on conservative principles and running in a state bluer than Massachusetts.

Goldstein also notes that Romney and Santorum were equally competent in handling the (evidently obligatory) gay “gotcha” question on NBC this morning. What explains the media’s obsession with gays? And why, to repeat a persistent question, are Republicans letting the Left moderate their debates? Does anyone remember the 2008 Democratic debate moderated by Michelle Malkin, Byron York and Michael Barone?

Amy Walter of ABC News offers explanations of why Saturday night’s debate lacked “fireworks,” but none of her explanations mention the incompetence or bias of the moderators.

UPDATE: In celebrating the Sunday-morning Romney-bashing, Philip Klein expresses a gloomy view of the race:

Had this all happened in September, we [might] be looking at a race where Perry had just won Iowa and was well ahead in South Carolina, while Huntsman was nipping at Romney in New Hampshire. But this isn’t September.
Instead, over the past several months, rivals hardly laid a glove on Romney. Perry had one disastrous debate performance after another and dropped like a rock in the polls. After a succession of candidates rose and fell, eventually Rick Santorum emerged as the leading conservative alternative to Romney. And Huntsman, boring and obnoxious in debates, never took off in New Hampshire. So what we’re left with is a situation in which Romney is so far ahead in his quest for the GOP nomination, that barring a major catastrophe, he’s unlikely to lose. In football terms, he’s in the prevent defense — able to surrender lots of yardage to his opponents in the middle of the field and still win as long as he doesn’t turnover the ball.

Being optimistic about the GOP requires enormous effort, but I will make the effort to disagree with Klein’s assessment.

It wouldn’t necessarily take a “major catastrophe” to derail Romney. If he gets less than 40% here in New Hampshire, that would reinforce doubts about The Man From Bain. This would be especially true if, despite the conventional wisdom about the Granite State’s putative hostility to social conservatives, Santorum overperforms to finish third or better Tuesday.

The rosy scenario would be that both of these things happen: If we’re sitting here Tuesday night looking at Mitt around 38%, while it’s “too close to call” for second place between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in the vicinity of 18%, that could engender an important shift in perceptions. Romney would look weak going into South Carolina, and Santorum would continue to signal his momentum as the emerging “Not Mitt” conservative choice.

Oh, and bye-bye, Jon Huntsman, who I doubt will finish better than fifth in New Hampshire, the basket that holds all his eggs.

Santorum made a day-trip to South Carolina to campaign today. A pro-Santorum “super-PAC” is already advertising there.

UPDATE II: Jazz Shaw didn’t enjoy the NBC debate:

The Sunday morning event, hosted by NBC and Facebook, started off as nothing short of a disaster. The lead moderator, David Gregory, spent the opening segment doing nothing but firing off political talking points and trying to get the candidates to snipe at each other. Those of us following on Twitter noted that it was literally fifteen minutes into the debate before the first question on policy was asked, and even then it was only after Ron Paul chided Gregory over the unsubstantial nature of the topics.

When we were walking into the Radisson in Manchester last night, Gregory was leaving and — while I admit this may be my own prejudice talking — the dude seems to exude arrogance. Out on the campaign trail, most Big Name TV News Personalities try very hard not to act like they’re better than the rest of us. For example, Carl Cameron of Fox is very approachable and gregarious, and likewise Michael Barone is always happy to talk politics with anyone. But I can’t seem to remember ever seeing David Gregory just “hanging out” in the press gaggle.