Barring any last-minute scandals, Mitt Romney will be the Republican party’s nomination for the 2012 presidential election. That much was clear on Saturday night, as the New Hampshire debate fizzled out and even seemed to end a little early. None of Romney’s rivals even seemed to be trying.
Given that this debate was billed as the last chance for Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the others to hold Romney back, it’s curious that they seemed so apathetic. Paul and Gingrich got into their own private spat, and although Paul resoundingly won that little battle, it’s questionable whether it really helped his cause. Gingrich looks like a spent force now. Santorum, meanwhile, did nothing to suggest he’s more than a flash in the pan.
The highlight (or lowlight) was Rick Perry’s suggestion that America should send troops back to Iraq. Has a candidate ever seemed so out of touch? There’s a debate to be had on the wisdom and timing of America’s Iraq pull-out, but if that’s what Perry was hoping to start, he botched it. He might as well have suggested heading back to Vietnam.
So Mitt Romney sailed through the debate, more or less unchallenged and untroubled, and will now win the New Hampshire vote. He could also win South Carolina, which would sew things up for him neatly. As has been the case through much of this campaign, his success is characterised by a kind of apathy. In Saturday’s debate, he seemed like a man who knows he has to just keep quiet and wait for the clock to count down.