Republican Debate Live

February 23, 2012 by staff 

Republican Debate Live, The CNN Republican debate in Arizona with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

10.45pm: Conclusion: Since we’ve used the gag about the real winner of these debates being Barack Obama, for a change let’s suggest that the real winner was Chris Christie or Rand Paul or whoever the 2016 Republican nominee is going to be.

I have long since given up trying to predict what is going on in this Republican contest. That aside, this debate did no one any good, not the candidates and not the Republican party’s chances in November, I would wager.

Perhaps because the candidates have done this so often, there was no pretense at offering any wider vision. Instead all viewers got was some microscopic discussion about arcane matters, like earmarks and Title X. The overall tone was brittle, passive-aggressive and macho blustering at the same time. To spend so much time and energy arguing about contraception provision veers towards the repellent. The beating of the war drums over Iran is similarly unlikely to attract moderate or undecided voters.

The effect of all these debates has been to shift the centre of the Republican presidential platforms to the right, with even Mitt Romney sounding at times like a mildly crazed member of an obscure Tea Party sub-faction.

In terms of the Republican nomination, the consensus seems to be that Rick Santorum blew his chance on the national stage, and that may be true: he talked with too much gusto about the likes of earmarks. But Romney didn’t do much better: he did nothing to put to rest conservative fears, he bickered endlessly with Santorum to no end. Romney should have been talking about his new tax plans but he couldn’t shift the debate in that direction, and instead wasted his time mud-wrestling with Santorum, who landed a few zingers on him.

Because Romney has a greater margin of error, he could afford a weak performance here. Santorum, lacking money and organisation, needed a better outcome tonight and for that reason he came off worse, not because he gave a measurably worse performance than Romney.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul did okay, and Paul predictably attacked Santorum (it is uncanny how he attacks the latest anti-Romney). But the real winner was: anyone who didn’t watch this debate?

But let’s look on he bright side: this could be the last debate until Barack Obama goes head-to-head with surprise GOP presidential nominee Nancy Reagan in October. But never fear: we’ll be live blogging the primary results from Michigan and Arizona next Tuesday.

10.18pm: Our community co-ordinator Ruth Spencer has been monitoring the comments below the line and has picked her top three.

1. NatashaFatale: Mitt: “Syria is their [Iran's] only ally in the middle east.”
Wow. What was the name of that other majority Shiite country…begins with “I”…don’t tell me, I’ll remember…

2. mope When is the box set of the debates coming out? I will buy it.

3. ClaudeIvan Newt fairly waddled on stage.
America will never elect a fat president. I’m talking to you, Chris Christie.

10.05pm: And that is it. Thank god that’s over. A couple more hours of this and the Republican party could go the way of the Whigs. (Some of you may think that’s not a bad thing.)

So 20 years from now we’ll find that all these Republican debates were secretly funded by the Obama campaign, code-named “Give them enough rope”.

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