I distinctly remember at least two brutal debate moments from the 2012 election. The first everyone knows – Rick Perry’s famous forgetful moment. The second, few people remember, but I remember it well. In a debate just before the South Carolina primary, Mitt Romney didn’t just fumble repeated questions on his refusal – to that point — to release his tax returns, he fumbled so badly that Romney supporters (and I was one) wondered if something was wrong with him. Newt Gingrich capitalized, he won South Carolina, and just like that the front-runner’s campaign was on the ropes.
We know the rest of the story. Perry never recovered, and his once-promising candidacy went up in smoke. The public never gave America’s most successful governor another shot to make his case. Romney, however, came back with strong debate performances, beat Gingrich at his own game, and won Florida. From that point, the nomination was his to lose.
I like Rubio. I’ve made no secret of that fact. And a number of his other debate answers were excellent (his answer on women and the draft, however, was just dreadful, PC nonsense.) But the fact that he knew he would be a target and stumbled so badly is troubling.