Romney blows it, Newt the one to beat

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I have not paid the attention to the US primaries as I normally would but I watched this afternoon’s (Oz time) debate.

Before I thought Romney was a pretty sure thing for the Republican nomination but afterwards I think Newt might have it. A lot will depend on how Romney reacts if, as I expect, he takes a few early losses, at least in Iowa.

The economy is Romney’s strong point, he needs to stop tyring to target Newt and focus on that. Romney was handicapped tonight by a strange lack of focus on the economy. But Romney contributed to that, I can’t remember one memorable bit from him about jobs.

[Quotes below from memory, not verbatim.]

Newt (8): showed a level of nonchalance that must come with experience. He looked very comfortable. Has a way of inserting interesting historical factoids without looking like a know-it-all. Handled questions about infidelity in an almost Clinton like fashion (“I have made mistakes”) and he does remind you of the 90s, which can’t be a bad thing after the last 10 years America has had. Highlight: standing tough on Palestine, “These people are terrorists and I am a Reaganite. I think sometimes you must tell the truth, like Reagan did when he overruled his State department and called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire.” 100% American red meat.    

Paul (7): others took off the gloves tonight but he stayed above the fray. Was strong on personal responsibility: “I don’t want the government to tell me what I should buy”. He will probably poll well in a second or third spot in early races, especially given that his radical foreign and monetary policies still receive less attention than the policies of the frontrunners.

Romney (6): came across a try-hard who is desperate to be President. Overall, he is a solid and commanding speaker with a good record. However, he still has to twist himself into knots defending his health care record in Mass. and he was playing catch up with Newt who went out hard on Palestine yesterday. Lowlight: offering Perry a $10k bet on a disagreement over individual health mandates. Who makes $10,000 bets? Oh, that’s right the guy from Bain & Company!

Santorum (5): Got marks for selling his record as a consistent conservative over many years but fails to command a Presidential presence.

Bachmann (4): Had some good lines at start criticising the non-conservative “Newt Romney” candidates. Not good for Mitt, he doesn’t want to lumped in with Newt. Fell away though later and came across as shrill and lacking in depth.

Perry (3): there is one at every dinner party. Always trying to insert into conservations which he is not really a part of. Missed a huge opportunity when he floundered for a comeback on Mitt’s $10k bet proposal. Must be kicking himself, why didn’t I say “I’m sorry Mitt, I’d love to but my wife would kill me if I risked that kind of cash.” Jerk Store would have smoked him!