This debate has featured some dizzying ideological hopscotch. For instance, two of the areas on which more libertarian conservatives were skeptical about Rick Santorum were on civil liberties related to wartime powers and on his commitment to cutting the budget. Well, Santorum tonight was far more civil libertarian on the National Defense Authorization Act than was Mitt Romney, insisting (correctly) that we must maintain the U.S. court rights to habeas-corpus petitions, etc., for Americans detained as enemy combatants.
And he has focused repeatedly tonight on balancing the budget and cutting spending, even saying that Social Security should not offer private accounts now (despite Santorum for 15 years being one of the most avid proponents of such accounts) because the transition costs (and budget busting effects, therefore) are too high. He said he still does support the accounts, but only after we once again “get our fiscal house in order.”
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney attacked Barack Obama for cutting Medicare — usually an attack that Democrats use against Republicans.
There were other examples, which I’ll circle back to later. But for those who want to put candidates on a perfectly linear ideological scale, this debate completely destroys that effort.