The Corner

Santorum Loses

Rick Santorum’s night was defined by explaining why he voted for things he opposed (NCLB, Title X). He’s right that politics is a “team sport” (at least most of the time), but that’s not the best posture to be defending when you’re occupying his slot in a Republican presidential primary. He didn’t know when to let go on the earmark discussion, which he couldn’t possibly win. He gave the best possible defense of his Specter endorsement, but as Romney said it was convoluted. Again and again Santorum got tangled up in his Senate record. Overall, he was too defensive, too insider, too complicated.

Per usual, Romney came loaded to bear with oppo and was deft enough to use it effectively, catching Santorum, for instance, apparently having it both ways on Title X. He isn’t always very appealing when he’s in close combat with another candidate — he can come across as snippy and over-eager — but he almost always wins the exchange. (He may have been the candidate hurt most by the lack of debates over the last few weeks.) Romney didn’t have to have a great night himself, but he couldn’t afford Santorum having a great night, and the former senator didn’t. Romney’s weakest moment was when at the end, asked to talk about a misconception about himself, he simply repeated his rote lines about the promise of America he’d opened the debate with.

In Florida, Newt seemed fatigued and frazzled, a hunted man. Tonight, he looked at ease and jaunty even. He’s at his best, it turns out, when he’s not attacking other candidates or getting attacked. Almost all his answers were interesting and impressive.

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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