Finally, Romney's Opponents Take Aim | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Finally, Romney's Opponents Take Aim

At last, the rivals who were supposed to savage front-runner Mitt Romney in the final weekend before Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire got down to business.

In the opening minutes of their debate Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, several of those chasing Romney in the polls let fly the roundhouse punches they'd been pulling through weeks and months of TV debates.

Fittingly, the first to fire was Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, who had been far more reticent the night before in an ABC debate. On Sunday morning, that Newt gave way to a surly version, snarling at Romney for exceeding a time limit: "You can blow right through that red light because you're the front-runner."

A moment later, Gingrich was telling Romney to "cut out the pious baloney."

Many had expected Gingrich to lead in taking Romney down, because his own sudden ascent in the Republican presidential firmament last month ended when Romney's superPAC spent millions of TV ad dollars attacking him.

That wound was on full display in the debate's climax moments, as Gingrich challenged Romney to deny the superPAC was run by his former staffers. Romney all but laughed in acknowledging this much ("Of course they're my former staff") but a moment later denied any coordination between them and his current campaign.

Romney said he hadn't seen the ads – apparently meaning before they aired – but then ticked off several of the charges included in them. In each case, Romney added, the charge was true.

Debate moderator David Gregory of NBC encouraged the several contestants to speculate on Romney's electability. And while none would flat-out predict Romney's defeat by President Obama – in the moment – all suggested they would prefer a candidate who posed a stronger contrast with the incumbent. In other words, themselves.

But once again, as on Saturday night and in earlier debates, the questions were directed at the individual candidates in ways that diverted the discussion from Romney to his rivals. What rights did Ron Paul think Americans should be guaranteed by government? What would Rick Santorum say if informed his son was gay? How would Jon Huntsman deal with a hostile Democratic leader in Congress?

Such a distribution of questions is, of course, entirely right and proper. Viewers just tuning in to the campaign have every reason to start at the beginning, at least with the six candidates still in the running. The purpose of a campaign, from the public standpoint, is to air and consider the views and agendas and proposals of all viable contenders.

But for the contestant and their campaigns, the purpose of debates is to further one's own prospects in relation to all their rivals. And from that standpoint, this long series of more than a dozen confabs has operated to Romney's benefit. On Sunday morning, as in the earliest meetings last spring, Romney spent most of his time smiling – even beaming.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Mary Ellen Mark And The Caged Prostitutes Of Mumbai

The photographer, who died this week, turned her lens on the marginal people of the world. One of her most acclaimed projects was her series of photos taken in the brothels of Mumbai.
NPR

Trickster Journalist Explains Why He Duped The Media On Chocolate Study

John Bohannon, the man behind a stunt that bamboozled many news organizations into publishing junk science on dieting, talks to NPR's Robert Siegel about why he carried out the scheme.
NPR

Hastert Due To Be Arraigned Next Week

The Los Angeles Times reports that the FBI spoke with two individuals who made accusations of sexual abuse against the former Speaker of the House.
NPR

Tech Giants Compete ... For Your Vacation Albums

With ballgames, family reunions and trips to the beach, summer is full of chances to snap photos. Apple and Google are in a battle to help you store, organize and share all those visual mementos.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.