The Washington Post

GOP debate: Mitt Romney, king of the world

Right now, the Republican presidential contest is split between two worlds. One is “Perry World,” where Texas Gov. Rick Perry is king of polls. His voice resonates with the base of the party, and said base rewards him with the No. 1 position. The other is “Romney World,” where former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the undisputed king of debates. Forget about looking presidential: With each successive debate, Romney has delivered a sharper message and, after months of floating above the din, has shown a fearlessness in dealing with Perry.

After watching last night’s debate, I’m convinced that if the GOP hopes to stand a chance against President Obama, Romney World should prevail. The crystallizing moment came near the end in when Perry tried — and failed — to clobber Romney as a flip-flopper.

Remember, I don’t agree with anything either fella is saying. I’m just harking back to a past life to talk tactics. And Romney did two things extremely well that would make him a formidable opponent against Obama.

Confronted his own weakness head-on. Romney has no choice but to do this since the national health-care law is the wind beneath the angry wings of the Republican Party. But he’s come a long way from the painful PowerPoint presentation where he spent 30 minutes explaining why RomneyCare is not at least a fraternal twin of ObamaCare. Romney’s retort is focused, clear and concise.

Masterfully pivoted to his opponent’s weakness. Perry tried to clobber Romney as a flip-flopper — the debate equivalent of playing T-ball — and failed. Romney used it as an opportunity to remind folks about his two-year-old book outlining his views and shut Perry up with this: “My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them. Governor Perry, you wrote a book six months ago. You’re already retreating from the positions that were in that book.”

Not only that, Romney went on to remind everyone in the hall and watching exactly what Perry said about Social Security. Perry opened the door at the first debate by doubling down on his “Ponzi Scheme” charge against the popular program, and Romney is more than happy to hang it around his neck at every opportunity.

While Romney thrives under the hot lights, Perry wilts. Literally before your very eyes. If Perry doesn’t get it together, it’s only a matter of time before Romney reclaims his role as king of polls.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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