Thursday, February 23, 2012

Debate Takeaways

-Someone programmed Mitt Romney with a good Seinfeld reference. When the audience interrupted an answer of his with applause, he said "As George Costanza would say, when they're applauding, stop." He made the same reference at a debate in December.

-Rick Santorum missed a clear opportunity for another George Costanza reference, when he said a smart approach to some issue would be to find out the President's position and do The Opposite. If he'd have caught it, we could have looked forward to seeing Jason Alexander on the political talk shows this weekend. Who couldn't use more Jason Alexander in their lives? Oh well...

-The main takeaway from the debate for me was Ron Paul and Romney relentlessly attacking Rick Santorum throughout the debate. Santorum did flop around a bit making process-based defenses of previous votes (e.g., "I had to vote for X because I wanted Y", or "George Bush asked me to vote that way). But the real effect was that Paul and Romney forced Santorum to play defense, keeping his offense off the field in a debate where he needed to score some points against Romney. Romney seems to have stemmed the tide in Michigan, and by preventing Santorum from attacking him, I think Romney won Michigan yesterday.

-I can't for the life of me figure out what the hell Ron Paul is doing. His campaign is being very open about being clearly undemocratic in its efforts to game the caucus process to steal as many delegates as they can. It's an egregious violation of "one man, one vote."

But abusing the process isn't the confusing part. What I don't understand is why he wants all these delegates while also appearing to do everything he can to eliminate Romney's other competitors, guaranteeing Romney a clear majority of total delegates. He has been relentlessly attacking Santorum with a vicious ad in Michigan, even though Paul has given up on trying to win in Michigan. He similarly attacked Gingrich in Florida after Gingrich was the frontrunner after South Carolina. By thinning the field, Paul would win more delegates, but a minority of delegates doesn't matter if one candidate has a majority.

Ron Paul seems to want to amass as many delegates as possible in order to force concessions at the convention, perhaps earning a few planks in the party platform and/or a primetime speaking spot. But 500 delegates when Romney has 1,300 (with a threshold of 1,144 earning the nomination) wouldn't give Paul nearly the amount of leverage that he would have with 300 delegates if Romney has 900. In that scenario, Romney would give him anything he wants. Anything.

So I don't understand why Paul seemingly wants to clear the field for Romney. Yes, he would wind up with a few more delegates at the convention. But a minority delegation at a decided convention doesn't give him nearly the influence that a smaller number of delegates at a contested convention would give him. A contested convention would then seem to be the ideal circumstance for Paul, but he seems to be dedicated to letting Romney win without needing his delegates.

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