CNN/Tea Party Pres. Debate: Favorable Reviews for Mitt Romney

GOP presidential candidates appear on stage at the CNN/Tea Party debate last night in Tamp, FL. 9/12/11 (photo by David and Holloway/CNN)

What a night for Mitt Romney at the GOP CNN/Tea Party debate in Tampa, Florida! He more than held his own and by some early accounts – won – in a crowd that clearly had a likin’ for Rick Perry (although Perry faded in the last half; the crowd didn’t like his gardasil vaccine mandate and he received boo’s on his immigration stance.)

The reviews…

The Weekly Standard – Fred Barnes (my favorite article)

Romney’s Win

If a debate more than four months before the first vote is cast can influence the outcome of a presidential nomination race, the debate last night among eight Republicans should aid Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Seldom has there been as clear a winner.

Romney was crisp and succinct, prepared and focused, and aggressive in going after his chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Texas governor Rick Perry, when he needed to be. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, showed once again that he’s a far better candidate now than he was four years ago.

He did well in these instances, among others: spelling out the differences between the health care plan he championed in Massachusetts and Obamacare; explaining the problem with the Fair Tax is that it gives short shrift to the middle class; pointing out the built-in advantages Perry has in Texas in governing successfully; and refraining from boasting, except to say that “if America needs a turnaround, that’s what I do.”

Romney challenged Perry on Social Security at the outset of the debate, which was held in Florida and billed as a collaboration of CNN and various Tea Party organizations. It was Tea Party people who asked the questions, mostly better ones than a panel of reporters or pundits would probably have asked.

The first question was on Social Security, which Perry has called a Ponzi scheme and a failure. Romney has suggested Perry’s view makes him unelectable.

When Perry didn’t back down from those comments, Romney jumped in with questions, and host Wolf Blitzer let him proceed. Romney asked Perry about his recent book in which he said Social Security is unconstitutional and might be better run by the states.

Perry didn’t have a ready answer, or at least not a persuasive one. Nor did he offer the one thing that I expected from him in the debate: a Perry plan for fixing Social Security’s looming insolvency. [...]
[...]
Back to Romney. The candidates were asked what they’d bring to the White House – what thing. Romney gave the best answer after repeating the Winston Churchill quotation that America always does the right thing after trying everything else first. He said he’d bring the bust of Churchill, sent away by President Obama, back to the White House.

The Daily Beast - Howard Kurtz

[…] Romney seized control of the tempo in what may have been his strongest performance so far. He seemed at ease taking the fight to Perry and got the better of their heated exchanges. The former Massachusetts governor was clearly trying to position himself as the reassuring grownup on stage and Perry as the fearmonger.

Let’s unpack their verbal clash and see what it tells us about each man and his strategy.

Perry tried to clean up his mess from last week’s MSNBC debate, when he attacked Social Security as a Ponzi scheme without suggesting how he might fix it. This time he offered those near retirement age a “slam-dunk guarantee” they’d get their benefits before hailing his own “courage” in criticizing the ailing system.

Romney didn’t miss a beat, calling Perry’s Ponzi language “over the top” and “frightful” before delivering his strongest punch: that the Texan had called Social Security unconstitutional and “not something the federal government ought to be involved in.”

The Fix (The Washington Post) – Chris Cillizza

WINNERS

Mitt Romney: Four debates. Four times Romney has wound up in the winner’s circle. It’s not a coincidence. Romney proved yet again that he is the best debater in this field with another solid performance in which he effectively downplayed his liabilities on health care and accentuated his strengths on jobs and the economy. Romney played more offense than he has in previous debates, taking the fight to Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Social Security. He also got a major assist from Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), both of whom relentlessly bashed Perry. But that’s how debates work. Romney also, smartly, ignored the tea party audience in the hall — who occasionally booed him — and focused his messaging on the much broader audience of people watching the debate on CNN.

More good reading after the fold…

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Mitt Romney Adding Muscle to 2010 Races “At a Much Higher Level than Anyone Else”

Romney Adds Conservative Muscle to 2010 Races (Photo by Michael Fagans / The Californian)

I just got done reading a very well-written piece from POLITICO that gives a detailed summary of Mitt Romney’s party building efforts, (and his apparent 2012 groundwork strategies). The article is long, so I’ll just post a few intro paragraphs and some of the more interesting blurbs. I encourage you, though, to click through to the original article and read it in it’s entirety.

Without further delay, enjoy the read:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is grinding through the 2010 campaign state by state and district by district, adhering to a go-everywhere, never-say-no campaign schedule that will have recorded visits to 30 states before Election Day.

It’s an approach that sets him apart from other 2012 prospects in its plodding, comprehensive, Nixon-in-’66-like pace.

Romney’s schedule is so all-inclusive that it barely looks like he’s picking his targets. In just the past few weeks, he’s campaigned for Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson and gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal. He made a Western campaign trip that included stops for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Nevada House candidate Joe Heck and gubernatorial nominee Brian Sandoval, among others. He also made a trip to Florida on Oct. 1 to boost Rick Scott — who won an upset victory over state Attorney General Bill McCollum, whom Romney campaigned for back in June — in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Romney’s spreading his donations around widely, too: As of Sept. 30, he’d given $940,000 through his Free and Strong America PAC to 188 congressional candidates, two dozen Senate candidates and 20 Republicans running for governor, according to financial information obtained by POLITICO.

Much of that time and money is spent on party-building activities in states like Rhode Island, Maryland and Kansas — places of dubious value to most presidential candidates.

But by establishing himself as a force in states beyond the early-primary circuit of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Romney’s cementing his role as a party leader and laying the groundwork for a potential nomination fight that lasts well past the first round of small-state elections.

It’s a strategy that recalls former President Richard Nixon’s slow climb back to power after he lost the presidency in 1960 and the California governor’s race two years later: Gearing up to run for president in 1968, Nixon simply outcampaigned his competitors with a frenzy of activity in the 1966 midterms.

Some interesting highlights:

“He’s using his PAC resources to create and cultivate relationships significantly down the primary calendar,” said one GOP consultant aligned with a potential Romney rival. “My hunch is that the thesis is that if it’s Romney versus someone else, which I think a lot of people think this race will winnow to, he wants to have the financial power and depth of relationships to be a candidate that endures.”

On Romney’s PAC:

“They understand the goal of fundraisers is to maximize contributions and minimize costs, so they don’t demand private planes and other costly things that legally must be paid for by the campaigns,” said Bob Honold, who handles incumbent retention for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “These midterms are all about jobs and the economy — topics right in Romney’s wheelhouse — so he’s perfect with big donors but also on the stump for members and candidates.”

On Romney’s Operation:

“I think his operation is, unquestionably, very strong,” said one Republican state lawmaker who has met with Romney and is undecided about whom to support in 2012. “He’s doing all the things, at a much higher level than anybody out there at this point.”

On the Early Primary States:

Romney’s not ignoring the early states: At the beginning of this month, he endorsed 38 candidates in Iowa and gave a total of $41,500 to their campaigns. He’s scheduled to visit the first-in-the-nation caucus state at the end of October, and, last month, he headlined a major state GOP event in New Hampshire.

On Mitt’s efforts in South Carolina:

“He’s done everything he possibly could.”

Read More…