The four remaining Republican Presidential candidates debated on CNN from Mesa, Ariz., last night, and God help us, it may actually have been the last debate of this GOP primary, ever again, for now. (There are no more debates presently scheduled,* after a planned face-off next week was scrapped, but as the New York Times reports this morning, never say never should the contest remain wide open after Super Tuesday.) And was it just me, or did everyone in the building—the candidates, moderator John King, even the less-boisterous-than-usual crowd—seem glad that they’re over?
It was, in any case, a debate that went by without any fantastic highlight-reel moments. It was an off night, it seemed for candidate-of-the-moment Rick Santorum, who spent much of the debate defending his Senate votes and his endorsement of Arlen Specter (now there’s a burning issue for the electorate of 2012). But it wasn’t an especially en fuego evening for anyone else, either. Among the moments:
* Mitt Romney, who has previously likened opponent Newt Gingrich to “Lucy in the chocolate factory,” continued his bid to be the sitcomm-iest candidate in the election, citing the wisdom of one George Costanza (above).
* Romney evaded the last question of the night—oddly, since it was a big softball about what people’s greatest misconception of you is (i.e., “What’s one amazing thing about you that we don’t know?”). Called out on it by King, he snipped, “You get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want”—to the apparent delight of supporters in the room. So apparently brazenly dodging debate questions is now something we’re totally cool with, which may cost a lot of jobs in the weaselly-answer-preparation business.
* In the traditional silly-CNN-question of the night, King asked the candidates to choose one word to describe themselves. Oh, how I wish the four men colluded to answer, “Picker,” “Grinner,” “Lover,” and “Sinner.” (Though Gingrich may not have wanted to get stuck with the “Sinner” line at the end.)
* And in the night’s biggest I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it moment, Santorum admitted to having voted for the No Child Left Behind bill, even though “it was against the principles I believed in,” because he needed to “take one for the team” during the Bush adminstration. Oh, Santorum’s one word to describe himself? “Courage.”
*Update: Or shall I say, none that we can count on happening. As noted in the comments, there is an NPR/PBS debate slated for March 19, but the four candidates had, as of recently, not yet committed to attending.