I just can’t resist. Mitt’s performance in Jacksonville is being so widely hailed as a success I just had to update my prior post.
CNN’s Bill Bennett: Mitt is “No Shrinking Violet”
In an opinion piece, CNN’s William Bennett used as his title a line rumored to have been heard uttered by Mitt as he came off the stage in Jacksonville, that if he’s attacked, he’ll attack back, and that he’s “no shrinking violet.” Much of what Bennett says was already covered in my prior post, so I’ll let you go there to catch the rest of his message. But the drum beat is becoming clear: if the GOP is looking for someone to beat Obama, and if they believe Newt that the ability to debate Obama is key to doing so, Mitt is every bit as capable as Newt, if not more so since Newt relies much more on emotion and crowd participation while Mitt can succeed with or without both.
Politico’s Martin and Burns
In perhaps the strongest of the articles I’ve seen today, in Politico authors Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns called Newt’s debate a “no-show.” Their opening shot:
With Florida and perhaps his presidential hopes in the balance, Newt Gingrich turned in an oddly passive debate performance that left his supporters scratching their heads and illustrated his unpredictable and even whimsical style.
It served as a reminder of the essential trait of the Gingrich campaign: It is entirely dependent on the candidate’s impulse or mood…
All told, Gingrich’s performance was more a throwback to the last days of his Iowa campaign — a floundering, listless, message-free affair — than an extension of his Palmetto State victory tour.
One unaligned commentator viewed this as evidence of Gingrich’s overall lack of discipline:
His somnolent showing left other November-minded Republicans with a mix of shock that the famously hard-charging politician would go soft at such a high-stakes moment and relief that he may not be able to capitalize on his South Carolina win.
“Speaker Gingrich showed everyone tonight that he does not have the discipline to run a presidential campaign,” said unaligned GOP strategist Curt Anderson. “He clearly came into this debate with no plan and no strategy to win it. If he had won this debate tonight, he would have won Florida, and pandemonium would have set in within the Republican Party.”
Even Newt’s supporters were at a loss as to why he was so flat:
“I can’t answer those questions, you’d have to ask him,” said Bill McCollum, Gingrich’s Florida chairman, when asked why his candidate wouldn’t highlight his differences with Romney …
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, a recent Gingrich endorser, offered the same answer to the same question.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him,” said Thompson….”
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond was more succinct when pressed about why Gingrich didn’t reprise his aggressive performance from last week.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Meanwhile others, not just Romney supporters, pointed out this is evidence of Newt’s inconsistency. How could he lead the party if he performed as poorly against Obama?
“He looked deflated to me,” crowed Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. “He’s an erratic personality. He bounces around from pillar to post. I think over the last 24 hours he’s become more and more unhinged.”
“Newt’s campaign has lived and died by debates and the adoration of a casino billionaire,” said Nick Ryan, who heads a pro-Rick Santorum super PAC. “When Newt has an easy moderator as a foil, he can attack the media and win. When Newt has to defend his own record or ability to articulate a conservative message, he loses, even to Romney. Tonight both Santorum and Romney took Newt to task, and he looked like the wounded and flawed candidate that Iowa voters saw. It makes one wonder if Juan Williams and John King had more effect on South Carolina voters than any ad or any campaign.”
Floridians should notice: if job one is to defeat Obama, the polls continue to show Mitt performing best against him. And Newt’s only argument, that he can debate Obama, has been completely deflated.