A BLIND ROMNEY FINDS A NUT
Mitt Romney is a much weaker natural politician than Newt Gingrich, but really, folks, Gingrich has only one strength, and Mitt Romney, after flailing around, has finally figured out how to combat it, apparently:
Mitt Romney leaves NBC Florida Republican debate uncertain
NBC is denying reports that it plans to cancel this Monday's GOP debate in Tampa Bay, Florida, because Mitt Romney has not yet committed to participating.....
But as of this afternoon, NBC has left the standard Monday program listings in place -- "Fear Factor" at 9 p.m. and "Rock Center" at 10 p.m. -- a decision the network attributs to an abundance of caution....
Campaign sources say they are unaware of any cancellation, but Romney's unwillingness to commit could leave the debate's status in question....
Debates are all Newt's got. If it's a TV-ad campaign (as Florida certainly will be without debates), Romney's going to outspend Gingrich and that will be that. And Gingrich makes a lot more mistakes when he's off the debate stage -- criticizing Paul Ryan, launching an attack on Romney as a capitalist -- that he does when he's on.
Sure, voters clamor for the red meat at the debates -- but will they miss them when they're gone? They've had twenty-three of these damn things already -- I really don't think they'll demand a twenty-fourth, even if Gingrich's campaign is chasing Romney around with a campaign staffer in a chicken suit. (There'll be pressure in the political media as well, and Romney might foolishly succumb to it, though if he does, he's a fool.)
But I'm wondering why the debate seems to be on the verge of being canceled altogether -- you know Gingrich and Paul, at least, are going to keep campaigning after South Carolina along with Romney. If you think these debates fulfill a civic duty to inform the public, why not just let Mitt and Ron (and perhaps Rick) go at it without Mitt? (And won't the ratings be good if the crazy GOP base anticipates more red meat from Newt?)
Well, maybe the GOP, in conjunction with the Romney campaign, has had the good sense to coordinate this: Mitt drops out of the debate and then the party, gently but firmly, urges NBC not to go forward. The party's leaders also must have finally figured out that this is how you shut down Gingrich.
There are, God help us, five more debates scheduled after the next one -- one in Florida at the end of the month, and four more in late February and March. All of those are co-sponsored by state Republican Party organizations or, in one case, by the Reagan Library. My guess is that these establishment types are all going to have the sudden revelation that debating time is over in their party. I think we'll see a wave of cancellations. Really, are these establishmentarians going to let Gingrich win it?
UPDATE, SUNDAY: Never mind -- Romney will participate in both Florida debates. I think he's crazy. I think the GOP establishment is crazy. Just strong-arm the process, shut the damn things down, and let the anti-Romneys howl.