Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner in the Republican presidential campaign received a strong boost from the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday, which should enhance the former Massachusetts governor’s credibility with conservatives. And then he outdistanced the rest of the presidential field in the debate Tuesday night, Politico
Put it all together, and it’s looking more and more like Romney will carry the GOP flag against President Barack Obama in next year’s election. Helped by the troubles of his rivals, Romney clearly stands out from the field now. He hasn’t even had to face a strong attack against the healthcare reform he championed in Massachusetts.
The more Romney keeps outperforming in the debates, the better his candidacy looks. In Tuesday’s debate, none of Romney’s opponents caused him any harm, and his main opponent Rick Perry merely tried to avoid further mistakes rather than taking the offensive, as Politico sees it. “In a telling move that seemed to acknowledge the limits of Perry’s candidacy, the Texas governor effectively tried to survive the debate by not losing it,” the news service states.
Perry stayed in the background, unwilling to risk attacks against Romney, and content to let others dominate the conversation. “I just try to get up every day and do my job, and debates are not my strong suit,” the Texas governor told reporters afterward.
Perry’s strategy now is to focus on upcoming policy speeches. “Our thought is we have the record on jobs, we’ll put our message out on jobs, our plan we’re going to roll-out,” Dave Carney, Perry’s chief strategist, told Politico. “Voters are going to decide on that, not on one-upmanship or scoring points.”
Businessman Herman Cain, who’s been rising in the polls, received more attention Tuesday than in past debates. His 9-9-9 tax plan (9 percent income tax, 9 percent sales tax, 9 percent corporate tax) garnered particular focus. While other candidates have shown annoyance with Cain’s surge, Romney welcomes his strength, which pulls support from Perry and the other conservatives.
“Mitt has a lot of respect and admiration for Herman Cain,” Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told Politico, calling the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO “a serious competitor.”
To be sure, Romney isn’t yet free and clear. Perry pulled in $17 million for his campaign in the third quarter. And he can use that money to blast Romney in TV ads – over the Massachusetts healthcare plan, for example.
But it’s all looking good for Romney at the moment. “It seems like first place has taken shape, and it’s the second, third and fourth spots that keep changing,” New Hampshire conservative activist Jennifer Horn told Politico.
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