I’m closing a piece for the print TIME today, so I didn’t have time for a writeup of last night’s 19th GOP Presidential debate. (See my colleagues at Swampland for their political take.) I simply want to give you a chance to discuss it, and to note this: we are in a country recovering from a massive recession/near-depression, coming off one war and continuing another, dealing with debt and healthcare and the social safety net—and last night, we debated the Moon. The Moon.
There have been a lot of sitcom analogies made in this election, especially by Mitt Romney, who has called Newt Gingrich “zany” and likened him to Lucy in the candy factory. Last night in Florida, the show apparently became The Honeymooners. You decide who was Ralph and who was Alice.
A few other random thoughts:
* Don’t take my political analysis as gospel, but I have to sign on to the conventional belief that it was not a great debate for Newt Gingrich. Whatever you think of the merits or fairness of the arguments, Gingrich’s case for the nomination has largely been based on the belief that he could dominate President Obama in a debate. Getting alpha-dogged by Romney did not help, if what moved the polls for Gingrich in South Carolina was his own show of force in the debates there.
* That said, I’m not sure it was a great debate for Romney per se. He was definitely focused with his campaign’s oppo research against Gingrich, but this may have been a case where what helps him in the nomination could hurt in the general. Are there Democratic operatives out there right now video-splicing together a reel of all his references to “my trustee”?
* Finally, it seems that Romney was not the only one debate-prepped at this event. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Gingrich to defend his attack ads against Romney, Gingrich went to his go-to device of attacking the moderator—but this time, Blitzer at least had a comeback, asking why Gingrich could make the charges in an ad but find them inappropriate to discuss in a debate. I don’t know how it played among the audience—maybe Gingrich gained among Republican voters for slamming the media as usual. But at least Blitzer did not let himself get John King’ed.