However, Last is dead wrong to include Carly Fiorina and (especially) Chris Christie.
I told you last month that Fiorina would fade in the polls after a good debate performance, and she did. I told you why she'd fade: Republicans like their women tough but smiley and down-home (even fake down-home) -- like Sarah Palin and Joni Ernst. And what I wrote then seemed true again last night: "Fiorina's words are brined in contempt -- nearly every sentence she utters seems as if it could be completed by an unspoken 'you idiots.'" It's true that men in politics are allowed to be tough and nasty in ways that women are expected not to be, but even men can't be as huffy and contemptuous as Fiorina is, unless they're laser-targeting the contempt at enemies of their voters. Fiorina seems contemptuous of everyone. It doesn't work. In presidential elections, we elect happy warriors -- even people who don't fake it well (Nixon) at least try to seem cheerful and upbeat. She doesn't try.
But Chris Christie, surprisingly, has also become an unhappy warrior. It's odd, because in his heyday, while he always seemed to be angry at someone, he seemed to be having a terrific time being angry. He invited his supporters to share in the joy he felt expressing his wrath, and they did. (They hated the union teachers who challenged him, too.) Now Donald Trump is the angry guy who's having a great time. (Or at least he was up until the last few weeks -- notice that he's mellowed and he's slipping in the polls? Think it's a coincidence that he's not going gangbusters now that he's dialed down his gleeful rage?)
Christie's ideas are overwhelmingly from the conservative end of the spectrum, but he seems to have decided to run a Tom Friedman, Simpson-Bowles, No Labels sort of campaign. He seems to have swallowed the notion -- a favorite of centrist pundits everywhere -- that voters will thrill to the words of a prophet of doom who tells them that they have to shut up and eat their benefit cuts, for the good of the nation. A thousand op-eds have told Christie that voters want to hear this, and he seems certain that it will prove to be true.
Thus, we had this last night:
QUICK: Governor Christie, I'd like to (inaudible) a question next. Actually, I have a question for you (inaudible).Wow, there's an inspiring bumper sticker: VOTE CHRISTIE: We Need to Get Realistic.
In your tell it like it is campaign, you've said a lot of tough things. You've said that we need to raise the retirement age for Social Security. You think that we need to cut benefits for people who make over $80,000 and eliminate them entirely for seniors who are making over $200,000.
Governor Huckabee, who is here on the stage, has said that you and others who think this way are trying to rob seniors of the benefits that they've earned. It raises the question: When it is acceptable to break a social compact?
CHRISTIE: Well, I wish you would have asked that question years ago when they broke it. I mean, let me be honest with the people who are watching at home. The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you. They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund. All that's in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs for money they spent on something else a long time ago.
And they've stolen from you because now they know they cannot pay these benefits and Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years. We're sitting up here talking about all these other things; 71 percent of federal spending today is on entitlements, and debt service. And, that's with zero percent interest rates.
Now, I'm the only person that's put out a detailed plan on how to deal with entitlements. And we'll save a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. And, here's the difference between me and Hillary Clinton. What Hillary Clinton's going to say, and has said before is, she wants to raise Social Security taxes.
Now, let me ask you a question everybody, and, this is for the guy, you know, who owns a landscaping business out there. If somebody's already stolen money from you, are you going to give them more? Or, are you going to deal with the problem by saying, I'm going to give people who've done well in this country less benefit on the backend. We need to get realistic about this. We're not -- the American people -- forget about anything else, they've already been lied to and stolen from. And...
CHRISTIE: ...The only way we're going to be moral, the only way we're going to keep our promise to seniors is start by following the first rule we should all follow, which is to look at them, treat them like adults, and tell them the truth.There's no hope, America! Vote for me!
It isn't there anymore, Mike. They stole it. It got stolen from them. It's not theirs anymore. The government stole it, and spent it a long time ago...
CHRISTIE: So, let's stop fooling around about this, let's tell people the truth. For once, let's do that, and stop trying to give them some kind of fantasy that's never going to come true.
No, folks, this is not going to work for Chris Christie. Americans may sometimes want to elect a Republican Dad, but they don't want to elect one who says he'll send them to bed without their supper.