Eight Republicans came to fight for the attention of Republican voters at the Politico-NBC debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, but only two of them mattered, writes Joy Reid.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former front runner Mitt Romney duked it out while the also rans tried their best to get in. But while Newt Gingrich quibbled at the questions and Ron Paul called for an end to entitlements and airline security, here were Joy’s key takeaways from the night:
1. Rick Perry really, really thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. He double and tripled-down on that tonight, despite a pretty firm rebuke from Romney. As David Frum tweeted, if Perry winds up being the nominee, that quote will haunt him. And I’m pretty sure Social Security will be the big headline coming out of the debate.
2. Perry also appealed to the anti-science crowd. Perry also refused to back down from his doubts on climate change, though he seemed stumped when asked to name a single scientist who agrees with him. I think he might have even tried to say his scientist was Galileo…
3. Romney was in attack mode. He went after Perry, but even moreso, he trained his attacks on President Obama. As serious and prepared as Romney seemed — he was arguably the technical winner of the debate — it’s hard to see him capturing the passion of the GOP base, which is much more like Perry than it is like Mitt. After all, this was a crowd, in the room at the Reagan Library, that cheered loudly, at the thought of hundreds of executions in Texas.
4. Michele Bachmann disappeared — even her signature “Obamacare” slams seemed to fall flat in the room. She didn’t come across as terribly new or interesting, and failed, utterly, to stand out. Ed Rollins tried masterfully to spin her performance on MSNBC afterward as “not designed to knock someone off the stage” the way Bachmann did to Tim Pawlenty in Iowa, but in reality, that’s exactly what she needed to do.
5. This is now a two-man race. Romney will have to stay on offense against Perry, and take some time off attacking Obama to do it. Perry will need to find a better answer — or an answer, period — on that Gardasil decision he made in Texas, and on his participation in the Al Gore campaign. But I’m sure the White House won’t be wishing him luck, since after tonight, they’ve got to be itching to face Rick Perry next November.