Saturday, May 23, 2015

Romney/Cain?

The GOP debate in New Hampshire was the best yet. It highlighted Romney and Cain and maybe hinted at the Republican ticket.

Romney/Cain?

See that Republican debate in New Hampshire? Best yet. Eight candidates around a table talking about one issue, the economy, for close to two hours with lots of highlights.

For one thing, candidates actually stuck to the topic. For another, the format - sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post - allowed candidates to ask each other questions. And, finally, it really separated contenders.

Mitt got most of the attention. He was authoritative, relaxed, smooth and in command. Didn't say a whole lot other than he'd repeal Obamacare and push for a balanced budget amendment. But he said it well.

As clear frontrunner Mitt drew four of the seven questions from other candidates. Handled all with ease, and played the segment wisely, directing his question to Bachmann rather than give any real opponent a chance to score points.

Herman Cain also was dominant. I counted 22 references to his 9-9-9 tax plan which he ably defended and promoted. He got tons of air time as others attacked his plan. It was like other candidates were buying him ads.

Cain's performance should start chatter about a Romney/Cain ticket. Two successful business guys, one with a shot at taking a chunk of minority votes away from Obama.

Rick Perry was all but absent. Seemed lost, confused and in over his head. Talked about creating jobs by reviving the energy industry through deregulation and promised details later this week. He's fast becoming the Fred Thompson of this campaign.

Newt mostly interrupted moderator Charlie Rose. Ron Paul was his usual fun, interesting, no-shot self. Bachmann apparently doesn't yet know she's over. Santorum got to speak once in the first hour, I assume because debate organizers do know he's over.

And Huntsman launched the only cheap shot. During the candidates-question-each-other round, he directed a question to Romney, starting with, "I promise this won't be about religion."

Cheap for two reasons: first, Romney's Mormonism is back in the news after a Baptist minister backer of Perry called Mormonism a "cult;" and, second, Huntsman's a Mormon.

The whole night affirmed Romney's status as nominee-apparent, helped pushed Perry out the door, underscored the futility of the other candidates and raised the question of whether Cain could end up on a Romney ticket.

I know Romney/Cain sounds like something you'd rub into sore joints, but it might just be the prescription Republicans are looking for.

Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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