Takeaways from last night’s debate:
• Rick Santorum needed to score a knock-out blow to turn things around for him in Arizona. He didn’t. Baring something completely nutty over the weekend, Mitt’s gonna win the Grand Canyon State next week; Nate Silver is now giving him an 89 percent chance of victory here.
• Michigan remains up for grabs, but Santorum has been running on fumes for a long time and his bubble is set to pop. It appears to me that Republicans will settle on Romney as their nominee, despite their misgivings that he’s too liberal, too rich, too much of an android, etc.
• I suspect there’s truth to the theory that Ron Paul was helping Mitt out by ganging up on Santorum.
• Newt Gingrich was unusually kind to moderator John King. Maybe he really is cheerful these days. I came away wondering which of his ideas was less crazy: The whole moon-base mining colony by the end of his first term or the double-layer border wall by the end of the first year of his administration? In case you missed it, here was his promise, from the CNN transcript:
Now, the thing that's fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That's my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it's competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.
The fact is —
GINGRICH: — what I would do, I would — I have — I have a commitment at newt.org, I would — to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.
I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary — there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.
I'm prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing.
Leaving aside the potential environmental damage that could result from building a fence willy-nilly across the border, we'll see how the Native American tribes deal with that whole "waive all federal regulations, regulations and studies" thing.
Also: Whatever you might think of the Department of Homeland Security's bloat, I'm skeptical that the country will be safer if we put those folks all to work building a fence.
• Romney was careful to say that he didn't want to round up illegal immigrants now in the country illegally, although he did say he wanted to do more to prevent them from being employed.
• Rick Perry was in the audience, sitting with Calista Gingrich a few seats down the row from me. He looked fairly sleepy throughout most of the debate—but then again, that's how he often looked when he was actually onstage in the earlier debates, so he was probably relieved to be in the audience instead. He left his seat before the debate wrapped up, so I wasn’t able to ask him how he felt about Al “Dick” Perry's presidential campaign here in Arizona.
• CNN was making a big deal about the fact that during this debate, the candidates would be sitting at a table. You know who had that idea first? The answer after the jump.