Newt Gingrich: Without question, Newt was the winner of tonight’s debate. He reverted to his usual form of debating best when he is down in the polls. He, of course, said some dumb things (like wanting to put Rick Perry in charge of something other than the state of Texas), but avoided talking about space colonies and gave strong answers that resonated well with the audience. Overall, I would give him a B+/A- for the night.
Ron Paul: Normally, I am hesitant to give Cong. Paul more credit than my man, Santorum, but he delivered a strong second place finish tonight, simply because he did not stutter, give contradictory answers, or look rattled. As usual, he delivered his signature lines about foreign policy that resemble Neville Chamberlain too much for my liking, and sounded semi-conspiratorial about the nefarious “neocons,” but he was confident and did as well as he normally does. I give him a solid B for the night.
Rick Santorum: By far, this was his weakest debate. On a night when he needed to be on the offensive, he was too defensive and rattled by the perpetual tag-teaming of the other three candidates on his record. He was simply awful when the discussion was centered on earmarks, but decisively struck at Romney concerning Romneycare, and knocked it out of the park when discussing the demolition of the family. Overall, his debate performance merited probably a C- or C, at best.
Mitt Romney: Mitt had some zingers throughout the night, but it was a forgettable performance for him. He has still been unable to overcome Romneycare, a weakness that will continue to hamper him until the nomination is settled. Additionally, from the way he talked most of the night, one would assume that Romney felt entitled to some kind of gold medal from the Olympics for asking Congress for some money to help finance it. Finally, he completely avoided the last question, which was how he felt that he was being misperceived in the race. Like Santorum, Mitt struggled with cleanly delivering his points, often stuttering and grasping for words. Consequently, I would give him a C-/C as well.
How they all stand
Santorum: He is currently in first place, but I fear that he may have peaked based on his performance tonight. He has got to win some states in this coming week to help him regain momentum heading into Super Tuesday. He can do that by continuing to hammer Mitt on Romneycare and Gingrich on his support for individual mandates and climate change.
Romney: As always, Romney seems primed to regain the lead after another conservative has taken it from him. Ironically, Mitt likely will benefit most from Newt’s strong performance tonight, as Newt will probably drain support from Santorum and allow Romney to win some more pluralities. Should he lose Michigan, though, he will be in dire straits. For Romney, however, his illusions about inevitability and electability have recently been shown to be the mere illusions of the establishment. He has got to generate some excitement, somehow, to really capture the Republican field.
Gingrich: No one seems to be more comfortable on the downhill slide of the polls than Newt. It is very likely that our Space Admiral could mount yet another comeback, based solely on his strong debate performance, and the base’s dislike of Romney. Should he lose Georgia, though, it will be time for him to swallow his pride and bow out. Honestly, no one benefits more from Newt staying in the race than Romney. With Newt gone, Santorum could build an insurmountable double-digit lead over Romney and win the nomination.
Paul: Ron Paul, of course, is not running for the Presidency; he is running to get some of his key points on the Republican Platform at the Convention. If he can get the Party to endorse ending (or at least auditing) the Fed, ending foreign aid, and restraining our foreign policy, then Paul should hail that as a major victory for his ideology. Paul has not won one single primary, so it is difficult to imagine that anyone actually believes he has a shot at winning the nomination. Interestingly, another major victory that he might achieve with his campaign is getting a certain son of his on the Republican ticket… Regardless, Paul is going to stick around, likely until the Convention. One major question looms though: will he run a third party campaign once he does not win the GOP nomination? I sincerely hope he does not, since his supporters make up roughly 4 or 5 % of the electorate, and would guarantee Obama’s reelection by voting for their hero.
Possible Vice Presidential Options
Santorum: Since Rick Santorum is so conservative, his options for an ideological balancer are rather limited. Mitt Romney, of course, would have to be considered since he is largely perceived as the sole remaining moderate in the race. Jon Huntsman, however, would probably be a better choice than Romney, since he could appeal to the Ron Paul wing (for his moderate foreign policy and libertarian undertones) as well as the independents and moderate Democrats that the GOP desperately need to win over. Condoleezza Rice, too, may be an interesting option for Santorum, as she is popular, moderate, smart, and has appeal to a broader range of demographics. Chris Christie is a possibility, but the outspoken New Jersey governor would be just as good a Vice President as John Adams (in other words, he would hate his job), so he would be reluctant to serve in that capacity. The only other Republican who could help balance out Santorum’s ticket is Sen. Scott Brown, but I would rather wait to let him recapture his seat in the Senate (and prevent another Kennedy-esque liberal from representing Massachusetts) and put him on a ticket in 4 years (if the Republicans lose to Obama) or 8 years (if they win).
Romney: Unlike all of the others (save perhaps Paul), Romney has a slew of dynamic options for his running mate. Being a Northeastern moderate allows Romney to look all over the country for the best possible conservative choice. Given his recent rise and residency in a crucial swing state, Rick Santorum has quickly risen to the top of many pundits’ list, and he would be a solid choice. Romney needs someone with a blue collar background to neutralize his reputation as the candidate of the 1% (to borrow the Occupy Movement’s rhetoric), and Santorum could provide that. Marco Rubio, the popular Latino Republican from Florida, is also a hot name to top the Romney list. He is young, energetic, and can unite all three factions (neoconservatives, Ronbots, and establishment) of the Republican Party better than just about anybody. Rubio, however, has stated that he does not intend to seek the VP slot. Bobby Jindal and Allen West would be good choices for similar reasons as Rubio- being popular southern conservatives who could help the GOP some votes from traditionally Democratic demographics. Rand Paul, like Marco Rubio, is another up and coming Republican star, who may be one of the only figures who would be acceptable to Ron Paul’s cult of followers. Also, Rand Paul has appeal to the Santorum Republicans simply because he is not quite as crazy on foreign policy as his father is. Like Santorum, Scott Walker, Pat Toomey, and Tim Pawlenty all have the potential to help Romney win key blue-collar, rust belt states that carry some critical Democratic electoral votes. All of these figures, however, would go better with a firebrand southerner, simply because they are not bearers of excitement. Each of them is very accomplished, but Romney needs someone with a completely different personality from himself. Walker, of the three, would be the closest to matching that description, but even he does not really fire up the conservative base. Toomey’s history on Wall Street would not benefit Romney, at all, and Pawlenty makes Romney sound as exciting as Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt. Three final figures that I would strongly consider if I was Mitt Romney are Jim DeMint, Mike Huckabee and Rick Scott, because all three of them are popular southern conservatives that can energize the base. Scott, in particular, would help secure the crucial swing state of Florida. Considering Romney’s choices, here is how I would rank them: 1) Rubio 2) Jindal 3) West 4) Santorum 5) Rand Paul 6) DeMint 7) Scott 8) Huckabee 9) Walker 10) Toomey 11) Pawlenty.
Newt Gingrich: For Newt, I would strongly suggest Huntsman or Romney. In other words, Newt needs someone who is his complete opposite. Quelling fears about his checkered past, Newt needs someone spotless. To balance his supposedly “conservative” views, he needs a moderate. To neutralize his bombastic personality and tendency to spout out absurd ideas, he needs a realistic statesman. Put simply, Jon Huntsman (and to a lesser extent, Romney) is the anti-Gingrich; the perfect running mate for someone whose personality was well suited for the role of Speaker of the House, but not for the stately role of President of the United States.
Ron Paul: Paul does so much against the conventional political wisdom, I’m not certain I can analyze how he would attack the situation. Being the rigid ideologue that he is, I do not see him picking someone neoconservative or “establishment”. Some have suggested Rand Paul, despite the fact that whispers of “dynasty” would never be divorced from discussions of the Paul/Paul campaign. Judge Andrew Napolitano is another popular figure among Paul’s followers, but I doubt that his presence on the ticket would help Paul win New Jersey. The best compromise candidate that I can see for a potential running mate is Jon Huntsman, a man who would be acceptable to the Paul campaign, the establishment, and conservatives who do not believe everything Michele Malkin says. Otherwise, conventional wisdom would say Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, depending on which faction of the Party Paul would want to most win over.