Tea Party debate fallout for GOP
The Sept. 12 debate in Tampa proved one thing: The fight for the Republican nomination for president is a two-man matchup. For most of the evening, the spotlight was on Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the post-debate commentary has centered on which one of those two came out better. While the Texan is still the front-runner, the Florida showdown ended in a draw, and Mr. Perry was on the receiving end of some painful body blows.
The most serious punch was thrown by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who after winning the Iowa straw poll a month ago has seen her Tea Party-based support defect to the Lone Star governor. The Tea Party sponsored the latest debate, and Mrs. Bachmann played to the audience, accusing Mr. Perry of favoring biggovernment solutions that intrude on private life, particularly in regards to some forced vaccinations against sexually-transmitted disease for schoolgirls that he implemented through executive order. The Minnesota congresswoman didn’t merely take an ideological swipe but charged Mr. Perry with cronyism by saying the vaccination policy was implemented because a former top Perry staffer was the lobbyist in charge of the account. In the days ahead, look for more candidates to shoot arrows at the front-runner for purportedly being too close to businesses and interest groups.
The competition also jumped on Mr. Perry by claiming he really can’t take credit for the growing Texas economy because he is blessed with a rock-solid conservative legislature that does the heavy lifting to draft good bills and all he has to do is sign them into law. “If you’re dealt four aces, that doesn’t necessarily make you a great poker player,” Mr. Romney quipped. This is only partly true. Sure, the state has a responsible House and Senate with majorities that are pro-growth on economics and in general try to hold back the bureaucratic leviathan. That doesn’t mean the chief executive doesn’t deserve a nice pat on the back for not screwing up what’s going right. When government doesn’t meddle, America has the most productive economy in the world. For the most part, Mr. Perry is committed to keeping the state out of the way, and there’s something to be said for simply not messing with a good thing. We could use such restraint in Washington.
The most knock-’em-downdrag-’em-out fight of the Tea Party event was over Social Security. Mr. Romney went after Mr. Perry for referring to the federal retirement system as a “Ponzi scheme” in his 2010