Mitt’s performance in tonight’s Florida debate would have been fine if he still had a 20-point lead in that state. But he needed to do much better, given his South Carolina loss and his precipitous drop in both Florida and national polls.
Mitt came out swinging, but Newt ducked effectively. Newt stayed cool, looked and sounded presidential, and had an answer for everything. His answers may not all have been true, but he didn’t hesitate or stumble. Mitt focused on making the case against Newt, but he didn’t just fail to do that, he failed to make the case for himself.
Mitt didn’t hurt himself, but he didn’t help himself either, and he’s at a crossroads in his campaign where he has to help himself and quickly. Newt still has the momentum.
And when asked what he’s done for conservatism, he needs to come up with a much better answer than his lame line about forcing Teddy Kennedy to take out a mortgage on his house. Not quite up there with Newt’s taking credit for balanced federal budgets and welfare reform and millions of jobs created.
As for Mitt’s saying that he balanced the budget in Massachusetts, all states except Vermont are required to balance their budgets every year, so Mitt didn’t have any choice. And he did it with a lot of tax increases that he likes to call “fees.”
The story line between now and the next debate on Thursday will be what’s in Mitt’s taxes and that’s going to keep him on defense. If he has another so-so performance on Thursday, the whole week is gone, and then the voting is on Tuesday.
Tick-tock, Mittens, it’s all slip-sliding away. You need to be bold and dramatic, and you’re not a bold and dramatic kind of guy.
I thought Santorum had a very strong debate, but all the attention is really on Newt and Mitt. He and Ron Paul were just breaks in the action.