Charleston, South Carolina, Sans Darius Rucker

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

It is possible that tonight’s was the most substantive debate yet. It, of course, helps to have fewer people to introduce yet again and give some fair time.

It is possible that tonight included the most substantial exchange on health care — and Romney embraced “Romneycare” for the first time I can remember.

For those who complain about the sheer number of debates, they do pay off. Practice does help. I’ve been watching Mitt Romney for years now, and this may have been his most articulate night, certainly in a long time, on his record on life. It’s one he can be proud of and has gotten a lot of grief on. Something similar can be said of his marriage record as governor, and he did a good job a few debates back defending his record on that, too. Rick Santorum, at least during these debates, has made Romney a better candidate, a more passionate one.

Rick Santorum once again had a steady and solid debate, as he would put it, and as he does. And tonight he did it with the authority of a winner, with new numbers in Iowa. He did an effective job dissecting Gingrich’s record a bit. It didn’t help either one, though, that it sounded a bit like the battle of Washington insiders. 

It annoys me that backlash against the media may give Newt Gingrich a surge in South Carolina. Because on the substance, the former senator has earned his support on the merits, not the show. When he talks about “the working men and women of this country who are out there paddling alone in America right now,” he speaks to the mood of a concerned country, citizens worried about paying bills and what they’re leaving their children in practical and fundamental ways. 

(The title of the post refers to this album, which I recommend.)

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