Don’t worry, I watched it for you. Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul threw the last few punches before the South Carolina primary, which will be held tomorrow. For those of you unfamiliar with where the candidates stand on hot issues, The Huffington Post did a good job summarizing the facts.
Now that you know the basics, let’s talk about the debate. Newt Gingrich was pretty pissed off when the first question CNN’s John King asked him was about Marianne Gingrich, his ex-wife. Marianne Gingrich told ABC News and The Washington Post that when Newt revealed he was having an affair in 1999, he gave her an ultimatum: an open marriage or a divorce. Marianne said Newt Gingrich then spoke to a group of Republican women about family values a few days later. But this wasn’t Newt’s first divorce. He married his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, in 1962. He then had an affair with Marianne and asked Battley to sign divorce papers while she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery.
Come on Newt? I get that maybe a vital primary debate isn’t the perfect forum for this particular type of question, but Marianne Gingrich was interviewed merely hours before the candidates took their podiums. The timing was impeccable. You can’t blame John King for trying. While none of the other candidates brought up the ex-wife, I still think Gingrich could have handled it better. He seemed to just rephrase the same sentence three times in between standing ovations. That’s another thing, this crowd was way too eager to stand up. I mean, were they sitting for days? It seemed like the second anyone completed a sentence with proper subject-verb agreement, they were on their feet. Take it easy, Americans. Sometimes you need to play hard to get.
Another interesting moment was when Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney argued about health care. Has anyone else noticed how Romney smiles and chuckles the whole time he is being insulted? What is he really thinking about? President Obama on Disney’s Tower of Terror? The possibility of Sharon Bialek and Callista Bisek starting a reality show together?
The best line of the clip: “If you want to go be governor of Massachusetts, fine. But I want to be president…” You need some ointment for that burn, Rick?
But Romney wasn’t the only one who picked on Santorum. Ron Paul called him “overly sensitive,” when discussing national right to life voting records and whether abortion laws are a state or federal issue.
The candidates then played “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with tax returns. Ron Paul said he has no intention of releasing his tax records at the moment, claiming he would be embarrassed to put his meager income against those of the other candidates. Santorum, who does his own taxes, said he would release them as soon as he got home, while Gingrich released his that very evening. Romney said he would show his records when his taxes are complete for the year in April, if he is the nominee. Gingrich pushed the issue a little further, saying that if there is anything in Romney’s records that could keep the Republicans from winning the election, it would be better to know about it sooner rather than later.
I agree. If Romney wants to stay in the lead, he doesn’t have much room to let the other candidates gain votes. Not showing his tax records is too risky and makes him look like he has something to hide, especially when Gingrich and Santorum have agreed to release theirs immediately. While I’m sure many viewers of last night’s debate are still wondering if the allegations against Gingrich about his past are true, at least he went on the offensive. He was forceful, and exerted a sense of control that the audience responded to well. Romney, on the other hand, seems to get flustered easily when confronted with a personal issue, such as his taxes. He needs to toughen up.
At this point, Republican voters need to strongly consider which candidate could put up the best fight against President Obama, and it seems like Romney might still be that guy. Tomorrow’s votes should be interesting.