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Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry.

Were the Debates a Mistake?

If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard. For your sake, I’ll just post it here:

Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil.

Ryancare and the Tea Party

Journalists covering Romney’s new position in favor of the Ryan Medicare plan have focused on how this will be a boon for Democrats if Romney gets the nomination.  “The reason this matters: It will give Dems a weapon in the general election against Romney,” says Greg Sargent, blogging at the Washington Post.

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative.

Today in Smackdowns

Mitt Romney, speaking to the editorial board of the Washington Examiner:

I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically. That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. [Emphasis mine]

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times/CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively.

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

  • Ted Widmer's op-ed on the difficulty of being in the third-year of a presidential administration is beautifully-written, chockfull of wonkalicious presidential history, and very smart. If you're going to read one article before the weekend, make it this one. 

When Endorsements Hurt a Campaign

Mitt Romney is rolling out an endorsement today that, in a more sensible world, would be a major boon to his Iowa. Longtime former Republican Governor Robert Ray is set to announce his support for the campaign on the same day that Romney begins airing his first TV ad in Iowa.

Ray served as Iowa's chief executive from 1969 through 1983 and is remembered fondly by most Iowans for his moderate governance, though not all segments of the state's population share that reverence. If any of Iowa's social conservatives were still going to support Romney (the small handful they might be), Ray will drive them further away.

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt:

Have the Curtains Closed for Herman Cain?

Yesterday, Herman Cain suffered another setback to his book tour cum presidential campaign when he announced that he’s been accused of carrying on a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Cain denounced the accusations, but he couldn’t mitigate the damage; at this point, support for his campaign has dwindled to where it was before his surge in October.

As a result of this—and the earlier accusations of sexual harassment—the Cain campaign has opted to “reassess” its decision to go forward in the Republican presidential primary. National Review’s Robert Costas provides the scoop:

Mitt Romney's Brand Takes a Hit

I’m not the biggest fan of Richard Cohen, but you should read his attack on Mitt Romney’s character, or lack thereof, in today’s Washington Post. In a few sentences, he gets to the heart of Romney’s persona — a mercenary politician who treats principles as a means to greater power:

Mitt vs. Mitt

The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad targeting Mitt Romney for his ideological…flexibility. The 30 second clip will run on cable and broadcast stations in several swing states – Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania – as well as Wisconsin. Here it is:

There is a longer, 4-minute web-only version that’s equally devastating in outlining Romney’s willingness to change positions for narrow political gain.

Not All Endorsements Are Created Equal

Slate's Dave Weigel takes The Washington Post to task for running an inane article listing the "big six 2012 endorsements." As a general rule, I'm opposed to these types of lists, which are typically desperate exercises reporters turn to when they have a deadline staring them down and no new ideas. But while he's right to criticize the lazy idea, Weigel takes it a little too far when he uses Chris Christie's support for Mitt Romney as evidence that endorsements play no role:

The Lying Lies of Mitt Romney

With a little more than a month before the New Hampshire Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has released his first ad of the campaign, a blistering attack on President Obama’s economic record:

Rick Perry Signs Controversial Pledge

Rick Perry's campaign is increasingly on the ropes. His poll numbers hover in the single digits, and it looks like his funders have fled, robbing him of his primary hope to propel himself past the crowded field of anti-Romney candidates. His one last option to maintain relevancy: Appeal to the radical Christian right that cannot fathom voting for a Mormon who was governor of the first state with gay marriage.