If last night's GOP/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa proved anything, it is that there's still room (and need) in the Republican race for other candidates.
After CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer opened the debate like a carnival barker, introducing each of the eight participants by yelling out their names as they strode across a stage to varying levels of applause, things went downhill.
Rick Perry bobbed, weaved, smiled and employed evasive tactics while taking repeated shots from Mitt, Michele and even Santorum. Meanwhile, Perry offered such thoughtful policy initiatives as "tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state."
Romney, who actually uttered a "mmmwah" as he delivered a hello kiss to Bachmann, held his own. And that's the problem: his own has him currently holding a distant second place to Perry.
The other six? Props. Good for one-liners, diversity and, in the case of Ron Paul, more fun than any conservative Republican should ever expect to experience. But is there any sensate person who believes Cain, Huntsman, Santorum, Newt or Bachmann now or ever holds a scintilla of a chance of winning?
It is, given the power of tea party politics in the GOP, not hard to imagine Perry grabbing the nomination. It is, however, much harder to imagine him appealing to enough independent, middle-of-the-road voters to win a general election.
So the party faces a choice: nominate its new-found Texas tea star and risk his anti-Social Security positions ruining his chances of beating Obama; or go back to its tradition of backing long-time national players and names -- as it did with Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Dole, son of Bush and McCain -- and nominate Mitt.
Unless there's time for the GOP to, you know, get other people.
The suggestion box is open.