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Mitt Romney says, if I have jotted it down correctly, “I would do exactly what Ron Paul said — and I don’t say that very often.” Charmingly delivered, charmingly conceived. (That’s the wrong order, I realize.)

Man, can 30 seconds seem a long time. How long are these 30-second answers, two minutes?

Romney says, “The malpractice system is nuts.” Good line. And true.

Lord knows I love running against the media, but I think Newt may abuse the privilege a little.

Has he become a tad too enamored of his experience? A tad too boastful about it? “I’ve been working on this question since the impeachment of Andrew Johnson,” etc.

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Speaking of boasting: Rick Santorum would do well to curb this, or refashion it. There’s a way of mentioning your Senate experience — particularly your committee work — without saying, “Don’t you know how important I was?”

One line came off with a particular clang: “I was one of 24 people who wrote a letter to Harry Reid . . .” You can’t say that in the tone you would use for, “I climbed Mt. Everest naked, and discovered the polio vaccine on the way up.”

John, the anchorman, really gave it to Mitt on his working with Democrats in Massachusetts — including Ted Kennedy! I don’t think he meant to “give it” to him. I think that was merely the effect.

Which Romney, of course, pointed out. But I thought the candidate’s spiel was good: My legislature was 85 percent Democratic; I was always playing an away game; etc.

Actually, Mitt said “Democrat” — used “Democrat” as an adjective, as in, “Eighty-five percent of my legislature was Democrat.” Now, that’s what I call pandering to the base!

Stay out of Democrat wars! (Remember that one?) (Vice-presidential debate in ’76.)

When Perry was fumbling for his third cabinet department, I thought, “He needs a lifeline.” I also thought he should have said, “. . . and a player to be named later.”

Frankly, I thought his “Oops” was charming. When he said “Oops,” he was saying, to my ears, “That was a fine time to screw up. And that was a fine issue on which to screw up. But, you know? Stuff happens, and it’s not the end of the world.”

Perry’s fumbling around was very, very human. I know it’ll hurt him. But I don’t think it ought to. What matters is what he is planning for the government, not which departments he can remember at a particular moment.

Once, Bill Buckley couldn’t remember the name of Evelyn Waugh. He said to me, “Who’s my hero, the author of Brideshead?”

Do you see what I mean? I think Perry should be cut much slack, but people aren’t like that, maybe especially in politics.

Back to health care for a minute. (Have I talked about health care?) The candidates were asked to address health care in 30 seconds. Romney was pretty charming: “Health care is a big subject for 30 seconds, but here goes . . .”

Newt made the same point, but he made it oh so pissily — and at length. Didn’t he?

Speaking of length: I’m fairly sure that Rick Santelli’s “questions” were longer than candidates’ answers. But I know we owe Santelli a lot: father of the Tea Party, true?

The guy is so important, he should wear a wig.

Newt was very, very gracious when he said, in essence, “I’d like to hear Jon Huntsman on this subject, because he has a great deal of experience in and with China.”

At these debates, every time the subject is China, I wish one of the candidates would say, “And, remember: We have to deal with ‘the People’s Republic.’ But it is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. It is a place where innocent, brave, and heroic people are tortured to death nearly every day.” No one ever says it. Currency manipulation is bad, yes. So is the ongoing torture of Gao Zhisheng, Chen Guangcheng, and countless others, who are among the best people on earth.

Okay, better lighten up: I believe I caught Romney with a hair out of place, and I’m not talking about the physical this time: I think he said “flaunt the rules” instead of “flout the rules.” Oh, Mitt! And your education was so expensive, I’m sure!

For my money, the best line of the night was uttered by Herman Cain. He said there were three big problems with the Dodd-Frank law. He stated the first of them. Then he said the other two were Dodd and Frank.

You may have heard that line before. I hadn’t — loved it. Am I laughing along with a serial sexual harasser? I hope not.

You know what America needs? Its groove back. That should be a Republican slogan next year: “America: Let’s get our groove back.”

I’m going to be running around for the next few weeks, and will probably not be able to watch any more debates, or scribble any more columns, but heaven knows the world can limp on, and I’ll see you soon. Thanks for joining me today.
 

#JAYBOOK#



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