Something happened during last night’s debate in South Carolina. I had an epiphany about Mitt Romney. Romney is supposed to be the nominee according to everyone in the media. I think he might actually be the nominee. But if he turns out to be the Republican challenger to President Obama this fall it’s become very clear that he’s vulnerable – not only because of his flip flops but because of his superficiality. Romney simply had nothing of substance to say when his canned talking points failed.
Romney’s flip flops are legendary. But to me last night’s debate performance was more damaging to his candidacy than whether or not Romney changed his position on abortion. Up to this point he’s gone almost under the radar during these debates on a crowded stage full of extremist Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and earlier with Herman Cain’s infamous 9-9-9 plan.
Last night only four men were left as Rick Perry dropped out of the race yesterday morning and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Romney’s tax returns and the possibility of him keeping off shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands are making headlines and so he went into last night a little off balance. With more candidates on the stage Romney is able to hide the fact that while he’s a disciplined candidate clearly focused at all times on attacking President Obama, he’s also a shifty candidate who’s uncertain when he can’t arrive at one of his talking points with an easy rhetorical pivot.
Romney’s been running for president for a long time. His tax returns are a hot topic. If Romney were on point he would have a perfectly reasonable response for when he will release his tax returns and for how many years. Instead he equivocates, waffles, and stutters. He seems uncertain, awkwardly laughing at the prying questions as if the person asking is stepping over some sort of invisible line of political etiquette.
The questions about what rate he pays in taxes and whether he takes advantage of loopholes only available to the wealthy is relevant. Just like his tenure as CEO of Bain Capital is relevant since he’s made his time in the private sector the main argument as to why he would be a president who could fix the economy. A better candidate would be able to explain why his record at Bain doesn’t quite match up to his rhetoric. So far I’m not convinced.
So last night in Charleston, South Carolina, Mitt Romney revealed himself to be not much more than a shiny suit and with slick answers like a used car salesman. He has a lot of work to do before the general election me thinks.