Wednesday night’s CNN GOP debate from Arizona was important for a couple of reasons: with the Michigan primary and Super Tuesday just around the corner, this may well be the last primary debate of the season. Also, this was the first debate after the incredible Santorum surge placed him as a solid frontrunner recently. There was no doubt that there would be a target painted on the Senator as big as Joe Biden’s suspiciously shiny forehead. Many viewers tuned in just to see how Santorum would fair as the “main target”.
One thing is for certain – being the frontrunner is a lot harder than being the underdog. As the underdog, Santorum has been tenacious, steady and impressive. As the frontrunner Wednesday night he seemed slightly nervous and not nearly as confident. It was not a terrible performance at all, but next to the always consistent Mitt Romney and the king of debates – Newt Gingrich- Santorum had difficulty finding his rhythm. Of course, there is Ron Paul to consider as well. Please save your hate mail about how no one takes him seriously, Paul fans. People do take him seriously and that’s his biggest problem. Moderator John King ended the debate with the question “What is a common misconception the media makes about you as a candidate”- to which Paul answered, “That I can’t win.” He asserted that everyone keeps saying he can’t win and it’s not true. I know Ronulans applauded that answer, but it made me think that perhaps everyone keeps saying he can’t win because he isn’t winning! So don’t be offended that I often leave Paul out of the mix. He isn’t on the radar (yet) as far as actual wins go, so in that respect I don’t count him as a viable candidate. Please direct all of your hate mail to my editor, Rich Mitchell at Conservativedailynews.com. He loves it.
The real issue in Wednesday’s debate is whether or not Santorum performed well enough to hold on to his dwindling lead in the Michigan polls. A win over Romney in Romney’s own home state could very well permanently tip the scales of this election. Santorum needed to at least maintain his status as a serious contender. I don’t know if he did that or not in this debate. This is what I do know: voters are already experiencing severe primary fatigue. The ups and downs of this process have been unpredictable and draining, to say the least. I think at this point, with only 4 men left in the race most people have made up their minds about who they want to win. I’m not convinced that at this point in the race a good or bad debate performance will spell certain doom for any of the candidates, because I believe voters are tired of the soundbites and they’ve pretty much made their choices. Santorum voters will see a decent performance by a guy for whom everyone is lining up to smack around, from every angle lately. Newt voters will find the usual satisfaction in his stellar debate performance – but on a side note, without the debate platforms Newt isn’t nearly as visible or loud in the general media. Mitt fans will be pleased with his steady confidence and well-positioned attacks on his new frontrunner adversary. And Paul fans…well, they are nothing if not loyal. No minds will be changed on his end, no matter how good or bad his debates go.
Clearly Santorum has benefited from surging during this relatively long period between debates. His strength is in the ground campaign and not as a “frontrunner debater”. The rest between debates has given him time to work his ground strategy and voters haven’t had to see him face the direct attacks from his opponents on a national stage. Had Santorum been surging any earlier it seems very likely the final 4 might be looking a bit different than it does now. As it stands, Santorum may have peaked at just the right time. We’ll know soon enough.
Be sure to check in with conservativedailynews.com for all the latest in the primary races and campaigns leading up to Super Tuesday.
crossposted at kiradavis.net