Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Last night’s Republican debate may turn the campaign back to where it was originally headed; a quick Romney victory. Romney woke up this morning asking himself, why didn’t I listen sooner to my staff and hire a better speech coach? Clearly, Romney’s debating performance was a great improvement of what it had been. (Maybe this will also be a good sign that if there were to be a Romney Presidency he will learn to listen to his staff.)
Gingrich needs a big break it now appears to win Florida and Florida is a winner-take all state. . He has money and a big media buy but it might be too late. Gingrich has no debates left in Florida to recover after a tired–tough testy–performance. Nevada is at the end of next week and he is not ahead in the polls. Is Gingrich waiting for Santorum to drop out so he can salvage those voters and delegates to give him a boost going ahead?
Rick Santorum actually won last night’s debate but he will not win Florida and thus questions remain. How long can he stay in the race? Can he last until Super Tuesday? Can he continue to raise money after he loses Florida? Is he hanging around only waiting for Gingrich to implode? How many delegates would make him a broker? Speaking of which, how many delegates will Ron Paul continue to drain off from the leaders after another good debate performance from him?
The other loser last night was the Palestinian American questioner. Romney woke up the entire Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and sent American Jews rallying around his flag pole as he attacked the Palestinian leadership, expressed his support for Israel, and criticized the Obama Administration’s handling of Netanyahu and the peace process. Not that Gingrich would have said anything different but Romney had the luck to get the question first from CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer and he took it to the bank. All Gingrich could add was a pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on his first day in office. The questioner looked rather shell-shocked, as both men clearly chose this moment to show–some might say pander to– the significant Jewish population in Florida and those watching around the country how much better a friend of Israel they each would be than President Obama.
Ultimately, it is all about delegates and so far the campaign has lacked predictability. After Florida and before March 6 there will be five caucuses and two primaries. Then there will be a surge to win the big delegate prize on March 6 when there will be six primaries and three caucuses; after which things should be much clearer. Last night there was the first true ense that the campaign might be reverting to form.