Thursday’s CNN debate with the remaining four candidates (really, about .7 of a candidate if you weren’t grading on a curve) was essentially a two-man slugfest between Mitt Romney, the man with opposable lips, and Newt Gingrich, the Keebler elf gone wrong.
Romney has everything riding on the line in Florida primary election next Thursday. His inability to succeed there after losing in South Carolina and (retroactively) Iowa wouldn’t mean the end of his campaign but it would make the stench of failure a permanent feature of it. Gingrich, on the other hand, has to prove he can win in Florida to keep the extended book tour that is his presidential campaign afloat.
So it’s a good thing that there apparently were metal detectors at the backstage entrance of the debate auditorium in Jacksonville. Romney was carefully programmed to slam Gingrich, and Gingrich continued his effort to portray Romney as a heartless capitalist (Who knew this would be a negative in the GOP?).
Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were reduced to “oh, yeah, those guys” status—a pretty accurate reflection of electoral reality. Still, the consensus is that Gingrich lost the debate, albeit barely, which doesn’t bode well for his chances next Tuesday.
The debate was the culmination of a day in which Gingrich accused Romney of profiting from foreclosures in Florida and Romney rolled out the big GOP establishment guns no one cares about any more in a last-gasp effort to bury Gingrich. But fear not: as much as they hate each other, they hate us even more. Gingrich showed up on a radio show to say that gay marriage was “pagan” (which is pretty rich for a man whose own three marriage record looks suspiciously pre-Iron Age). Not to be outdone, Romney claimed that the president is “very aggressively trying to pave the path to same-sex marriage,” which comes as a surprise to most of us who haven’t exactly pictured Obama as the Lewis and Clark of marriage equality.
In the frantic run up to Tuesday’s vote, don’t be surprised if there is more anti-gay pyrotechnics by the GOP’s finest trying to appeal to the wingnut fringe that is now the key engine of Republican politics, an engine that threatens to drive the party’s general election prospects into a ditch.
Photo via Gage Skidmore