Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had his sharpest debate performance yet in last night’s CNBC economic debate — solidifying his position as the presumptive Republican nominee.But for one semi-incoherent answer on health care reform, Romney was flawless — attacking President Barack Obama and ignoring the other candidates on stage.
Floppy haircut aside, Romney looked and acted like the Republican nominee — and he was treated as such by the debate moderators, getting asked a question on nearly every debate topic when others seemed to disappear on stage.
Romney deftly handled the issue that seemed to be his biggest vulnerability in Michigan — his opposition to the auto bailout — drawing resounding applause for the audience when he restated his position that the companies should have gone through “managed bankruptcy.”
He also smartly extricated himself from a loaded question on the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal — saying it was up to Cain to explain what happened, and for the voters to decide as they see fit.
None of the other candidates managed to lay a blow on Romney, nor replace Cain as an electable alternative. Romney appears destined to coast to the nomination, polling strongly in Iowa, running away with it in Florida, and tied with Obama in national polls.
Democrats even resisted the opportunity to gloat over Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s epic gaffe and maintained their laser-like focus on Romney. In what may be the surest sign of his strength, every DNC rapid response email and talking point was directed at him, and their only post-debate video attacks his response to the auto bailout question.
Romney even managed a nearly-passionate answer to a pointed question from John Harwood on his flip-flopping record, saying “people understand I’m a man of steadiness and constancy.”
In the first debates of this season Romney was the last man standing in the debates — last night he won it in his own right. He acted like the nominee, he was treated like the nominee, and his nomination seems more inevitable than ever before.
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