“I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake . . .

Photo credit to rdbrewer from Ace of Spades.

. . . we can’t have illegals here!”  Yeah, that line’s going to hurt Mitt Romney to an extent that it wouldn’t any other candidate.  It feeds directly into the broadly held perception that his sudden ardent conservatism is a merely a product of his candidacy rather than the other way around.

But, what’s really going to stick to Romney after this debate is the tenuously contained, crimson-faced rage that overcame him when Rick Perry reminded him of his flagrant hypocrisy over the illegal immigration issue.  Watch below as the normally placid expression of the venture capitalist and noted turnaround artist suddenly transforms into the blood engorged visage of a Maori warrior performing a Haka.

For the first time in any of the debates, Mitt Romney had the bubble of his inevitability punctured, and he didn’t react well.  Up until  last night, Romney clearly expected to skate through this presidential primary as the “next-in-line” candidate, and perhaps counted too much on the aid and comfort of also-rans to take down his challengers.  Whatever his thinking was going into the debate, it’s pretty clear that the complacency he’s projected up until now has been a function of the kid-glove treatment he’s received at the hands of candidates whose shared objective was to take out a common rival.  Now, he finds himself the target of that shared objective — and, no sir, he didn’t like it.

Herman Cain also had a bad night.  It wasn’t so much in the way he performed in the debate, though it was a slightly off night for him in that regard.  His personality and the appeal he holds for his base shields him from the kind of damage that more traditional candidates suffer in debates when they find themselves tackling questions they’re not particularly well prepared to answer.  What would normally be considered a bug in typical presidential candidates is considered a feature in Herman Cain.  No matter how badly he manages to flub an answer, you can count on his acolytes to portray it as an endearing admission of fallibility.

But Cain’s answer on the matter of swapping Gitmo detainees for a soldier held captive by al Qaeda terrorists wasn’t a simple matter of not being steeped in foreign policy minutiae or a refreshing lack of nuance in dealing with America’s enemies.  His prior contention that he would be open to such a deal revealed something about his basic temperament:  A lack of firm grounding in a very basic principle that the very act of negotiating with terrorists constitutes surrender.

Cain’s occasional uncertainty on foreign policy questions hasn’t been too problematic for him up until now since most of the questions he’s been faced with in that area have centered around specifics.  Not knowing the name of the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan is something most people can identify with.  The fact is, I don’t know the names of most heads of state, and yet, I consider myself to be a fairly quick study and can overcome that lack of knowledge in the amount of time it takes Google to report back with the results of a query.

The matter of negotiating with al Qaeda terrorists, however, is a completely different matter.  It’s not something that a person needs experience in dealing with when it comes to the default position.  Whether one sees the idea of negotiating with al Qaeda as plausible is a matter of basic inclination.  In failing to reject the very notion of engaging in negotiations with al Qaeda out of hand, Herman Cain told GOP primary voters something about himself that they are simply not prepared to accept in a candidate.

The fallout from Cain’s lack of a firm answer on the issue may not be immediate or precipitous, but it will eat away at his candidacy and provide his opponents with a steady supply of ammunition going forward.  The fact that he reversed himself on the matter within hours is a good indication that his advisers understand how badly he undermined himself.  His inclination toward the possibility of negotiating with terrorists calls into question his basic temperament, and GOP primary voters require nothing less than steadfast resolve in such matters.  On a very basic, fundamental question of disposition, Herman Cain gave a conditional answer where the required response is, “over my dead body.”

Finally, there is one overriding lesson to be drawn from last night’s debate that many in the conservative blogosphere are overlooking today.  For all the discussion of whether Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were damaged by their performances, it really amounts to one thing and one thing only:

If Republican politics has devolved to the point where debate performances and personalities are the standard by which candidates are judged, and successful executive experience in government and sound economic and regulatory proposals are merely secondary considerations, we may as well cancel the primaries and coronate the Romney/Cain ticket right now.  I, for one, don’t think it’s reached that point — yet.

And I suspect most other GOP primary voters don’t believe it has, either.  And that’s why those who are dismissing Rick Perry’s chances right now will be eating their words soon.  He can still win the nomination, despite what so many ostensible conservatives would have you believe.  Whether he will or not remains to be seen.  But his rivals and their supporters are in for a much tougher fight than they’d like to believe right now.  That much I can guarantee.

Always, always, trust content from The Damn Dirty RINO.

UPDATE: Thanks to rdbrewer at Ace of Spades (one of my few daily must-visits) for the sidebar link!  Welcome to all the ‘Rons & ‘Ettes; hope you find this dusty ol’ place hospitable!

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12 Responses to “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake . . .

  1. Zimriel says:

    I don’t like that Romney put his hands on Perry. It’s true that Perry trolled him hard. It’s also true that that smirking poof Anderson Cooper let it all happen. And the passion in Romney’s voice that he’s being played? Good for him. BUT KEEP YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF HIM, YOU DAMN DIRTY APE

    Both of them are talking bollocks on the facts, of course, but we can expect that. Romney comes off better in that his sin was venal (a personal hypocrisy) rather than mortal (free tuition for illegals, wtf?).

    At least we got Cain… oh wait. :^(

    • Michelle says:

      There is no free tuition for illegals. They get in-state tuition rates, which is hardly free.

      Public universities in Texas are funded with sales tax receipts. If an illegal meets the residency requirements for in-state tuition, that means they have being living in Texas for a minimum of 3 years and, presumable, buying stuff and paying the sales tax.

      Ten other states also provide in-state tuition rates for illegals, btw.

  2. Zimriel says:

    “in Romney’s voice that he’s being played” read, “in Romney’s voice when he realises that he’s being played”

    • Walt says:

      Thanks for the comment, Zimriel.

      One thing I do want to clarify, though, is that Perry didn’t institute free tuition for illegal aliens. What he did was support and sign legislation that allowed the children of illegal aliens to attend Texas universities at the same tuition rates that all other Texans pay — provided they graduated from a Texas high school and had lived in the state for at least three years prior to enrollment.

      Romney’s characterization of the whole thing as a “subsidy” is pretty dishonest, and I think that opened him up to a legitimate attack from Perry on his failure to verify the legal status of contract workers on his property.

      More than anything, though, I think it was beneficial for the GOP to have Romney’s facade of inevitability punctured the way Perry did when he raised the issue. I hope to see a lot more of that in future debates.

      – Walt

  3. ThomasD says:

    Romneys “I don’t think I ever hired an illegal” line was downright Clintonian in it’s degree of flagrant mendacity. It also reveals his general disdain for the intelligence of the primary voters.

    I’m no Perry fan either; Perry’s full frontal assault on Romney clearly indicates that Perry expects to pick up the majority of squishy RINO Romney voters should he succeed in knocking him out from frontrunner status. Maybe he’s right, but that’s not what I want to see in a candidate.

    So, for me, while they both lose, Romney loses biggest for the sleazy, slimy, and too slick by half nobody-else-lies-quite-so-ably-as a-politician level of dishonesty

    • Walt says:

      Thanks for the comment, ThomasD. Of course, I obviously agree with you on Romney and the damage he did to himself. And, I won’t try to spin anyone who isn’t exactly a Perry fan based on what they’ve seen so far from the man. I can see why anyone would have their reservations.

      At this point, all I’d ask anyone who may be critical of him to do is withhold judgment a bit longer. I really do think he’s making small, but steady improvements as he goes through this process. And, while he may never be the perfect candidate for most GOP voters, I think people will find him a lot more suitable as time moves on and will eventually come around to like him — albeit grudgingly in some cases.

  4. sahun says:

    If this is the level of discourse in the GOP now. I’m out of here. I want no part of this.

    I will vote for Romney as an Independent.

    The Republican Party used to be a place for normal, decent people. Now it is a place for this?

    I want no part of anything to do with people who hate so deeply, with absolutely now reason to hate.

    Romney is a good person. You are not.

  5. John says:

    I fully expect Rick Perry to be our nominee. He has the best long term record of actual leadership, particularly when it comes to job creation. Results matter, and nobody can compete with him on those grounds.

    As far as Romney is concerned, he lost his cool in the debate Tuesday night. He was caught in a lie when it was revealed he hired illegals to take care of his lawn. At first he tried to brush it off with a fake belly-laugh and denial. But when Perry pressed him on it he became very flustered. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone’s face that red. This doesn’t bode well for Romney. If he becomes our nominee he can expect much stronger attacks than he has received from his Republican challengers so far. The media hasn’t even begun to attack him yet. The Democrats have a rich source of material they haven’t begun to mine with his history of flip-flops , Romneycare, animal cruelty, ect. Seeing how flustered Romney became when Perry attacked him proves that he has thin skin and a glass jaw.

    • Walt says:

      Thanks for the comment, John.

      I’m not 100% dead-lock sure Perry will be the nominee, but I feel much more confident about it than I did three days ago. I do believe he’ll get better as time goes on, and am glad to see he’s finally starting to develop sea legs for the debate stage. That’ll help. Though, I think his strength has been underestimated ever since he had that first tough debate outing. People discount how important retail politics is to the process, but it always ends up making a difference; perhaps not the difference in all cases, but a difference nonetheless.

      And that’s where Perry excels.

  6. rdbrewer says:

    “Take that balloon full of cocaine out of my ass; I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake.”

    “Get this dog off my penis; I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake.”

    –Jon Stewart

    • Walt says:

      Ha! Stewart has done a great job on Romney for a while now. Just imagine what he’d do if Romney gets the nomination.

      And it’s not that I have any particular fear of what Stewart or anyone in the mainstream media will do or say about the GOP candidate. Whoever it is, they won’t be spared any more than John McCain was.

      No, the problem with Romney is that I’d actually agree with Stewart’s attacks on him far more often than I would with Rick Perry.