These endless debates have allowed front-runners to stumble and dark horses to catch up — up to a point. Now as the primaries begin to come thick and fast, and debates wane, organization and money matter more and more, and that favors Romney.
The front-runner is getting closer to, or may have exceeded, his goal of matching the combined vote tallies of the two major anti-Romney candidates; that said, the race is not over — or rather, in terms of primaries and delegate counts, it has hardly begun, especially in the age of disastrous gaffe or embarrassing disclosure. If Gingrich is going to stop Romney, then for all practical purposes Santorum will have to drop out; right now, for all his professionalism and steadiness, Santorum is playing the role of a third-party spoiler candidate.
To continue, Gingrich will have to curb his Reagan boasting, drop his aggravating petulance and serial whining about his supposed unfair treatment, and cut out the sleazy tit-for-tat commercials, which hurt him more than they do Romney. Otherwise, he comes off as either more of the bomb-thrower of his youth, or someone who can dish it out but not take it. Instead, Gingrich needs to refocus on those anti-Obama themes and modes that boosted him to near-front-runner status. He showed that he is the most interesting ad hoc speaker again in his impressive concession speech with an effective impromptu “big idea” critique of Obamism, delivered quite well, and without his unfortunate “they’re unfair to me” whine.
Romney is doing better the harder he is hit. But he still hasn’t hit stride in explaining the disaster that we face of Obama’s borrowing $3 billion–plus a day to fund counterproductive big-government boondoggles while sending business into stagnation with more regulation, fears of Obamacare, and constant demonization of the successful. The latest news — sluggish 2011 GDP, the Congressional Budget Office’s bleak prognosis, housing slumping, more debt — depresses everyone, given that the “recovery” is turning into more of a “recessionary.”
That said, Romney’s organization, money-raising, and debate prep are all improving. He is getting better at explaining his wealth and how his expertise can improve the lot of the less well-off. When they hit him with the 1 percent class-warfare trope, he has to explain that Americans are not peasants, and that newly created wealth, like a Keystone pipeline, is not zero-sum and does not come at the expense of others — while raising the issue of hypocrisy, given that all of Obama’s chiefs-of-staff were get-millions-quick Wall Streeters, and his donations are Wall Street–centric. Scoundrel Jon Corzine’s bundling of hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama sort of sums up the hypocrisy of “noble liberals versus the 1 percent.”
Meanwhile, the candidates have to cut the suicidal “you’re a liar!” back and forth, and demand from Obama an explanation for the continued massive borrowing amid the latest dismal news.