|Fumbles by Perry, Romney, Bachmann make room for Palin|
Going into this debate the race was basically a two person contest (with the third frontrunner, Sarah Palin, waiting in the wings) between Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The general consensus was that Perry was pulling largely from the tea party and right side of the GOP while Romney was rolling in the mud with the RINO brigade.
This came after Michele Bachmann's campaign imploded like a dying star. Bachmann, riding high in the polls in June and July has seen her numbers plummet. Her recent claims that Perry's government-mandated Gardasil injections for little girls led to mental retardation may have jumped the political shark. The devastating political point to be made on this issue was Perry's use of a government mandate, a decidedly non-conservative position held by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to healthcare. On that Bachmann could have eviscerated him. Instead, she went for the ludicrous in repeatedly asserting that a random tearful woman claimed her daughter had mental retardation from the drug.
That may or may not be true, but it sounds like a tin foil hat conspiracy theory. Bachmann continues to make the assertion with the cover that she's "not a doctor" and that it was just something that his tearful lady told her. This is troubling on two fronts: First, that Bachmann doesn't have a shred of medical data right now to support such a claim. Second, because the woman trying to win the presidency is comfortable parroting on national television something that a complete stranger in the throws of an emotional breakdown shared with her only minutes earlier. Repeatedly. Not exactly a profile in political judgment.
In the past week, Bachmann's national standing has been reduced to a paltry 5-8% (behind Ron Paul in at least one poll). Gone are the glory days of the double digit-just-within-reach-of-the-frontrunners status that she enjoyed. Even crotchety political hack Ed Rollins jumped ship for health reasons. (Perhaps he was accidentally injected with Gardasil?)
Bachmann would do well to drop out of the race before things get worse for her and salvage her once-promising career in the House of Representatives where she can be a fighter for tea party values in the legislative arena. Her voice is very much needed in that fight.
None of the other candidates (Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Newt Gingrich or Buddy Roehmer) seem to be able to break out of single digits. And time is running out. The lack of cash doesn't seem to be helping.
In the debate, Perry's greatest strength (his perceived solid conservative political courage) was decimated in the exchange over free tuition to illegal aliens. Embracing the rhetoric of his former colleagues in the Democratic party, Perry claimed anyone against such handouts to folks who sneak illegally into this country while millions of folks around the world wait in line was "heartless" while sanctimoniously grinning at his own compassion for law-breaking.
It didn't help that he's still against a border fence on the grounds that America can do a lot of things, but building a simple fence along her border is beyond her capabilities. It also didn't help that he seemed incredibly ill at ease and unable to coherently espouse some of his policy positions. Even attacks on Romney seemed like he was searching for the next scripted word. And the inauthentic fumbling in the midst of such attacks delivered as much damage on Perry as it did to Romney.
Make no mistake, though, the Perry and Romney boxing match also damaged Romney. While reminding voters that Romney has been an all of the above candidate on virtually every issue, the argument also delivered one of the most politically ludicrous (albeit hilarious) moments in the debate. Romney actually had the political cajones to actually chide Perry for changing political positions. Romney, the
Perry came away from this debate extremely damaged. The talking heads such as Dick Morris (who earned his credibility as a political prognosticator by correctly predicting the 2008 matchup of Hillary Vs. Condi) insist that Romney scored major points in the debate and would reap the benefits of Perry's demise.
Maybe. But the problem with Romney is that he has been so politically duplicitous that the vast majority of tea party folks and many in the GOP no longer listen to a word that he says. He's lost all credibility and no longer possesses enough political clout to re-invent himself for the tenth time. So Perry's loss is not Romney's gain.
Who did gain? Well among the also-rans, Herman Cain scored some major points. He won today's Florida CPAC poll by a wide margin. Newt Gingrich presents himself well in the debates, but he's got the same credibility gap that Romney has. Santorum is a good guy but can't seem to generate any excitement. And Huntsman and Johnson simply amuse as dueling Don Knotts doppelgangers.
Perry's collapse will free up mainly tea party support. That tea party support is not going to Romney. And Romney's support will begin collapsing and heading to
No, the person who benefited the most from this debate is Sarah Palin. Every day the justification for her entrance into this race gets bigger and bigger. Her national polling has dramatically improved and the crazed scouring of her emails, the documentary of her political career and her savvy political op-eds and speeches have been driving the political debate for months. Case in point: She gives a speech on crony capitalism and suddenly all of the GOP field is obsessed with rooting it out. Even folks who have been sidled up to its teat for some time.
With Perry on the verge of collapse, Palin's moment has arrived. With SarahPAC declaring her "on the verge" of her decision and with the political stage set for her arrival, expect Sarah Palin to enter into this race in short order and to immediate front-runner status. Unlike previous front-runners Romney, Perry and Bachmann, however, Palin has been the most thoroughly vetted national candidate since Reagan. Where they all took dramatic nose-dives in support under such attacks, Palin's candidacy will demonstrate the teflon of Reagan. With Palin in the race, the tea party will finally have a credible candidate with a record AND matching rhetoric of sudden and relentless common sense Constitutional conservative reform. It will quickly change the race into an establishment versus Palin race.
And that's a contest that the Mama Grizzly has won before to the tune of landslide elections of 75% of the vote and 80% plus approval ratings for the majority of her term as governor.
Perry's stumble simply opened that door. Mama Grizzly is about to get all mavericky and roguish on us as she barrels through to the nomination and the presidency. Game on.