book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.” He asked numerous times, “The real question is, does Gov. Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it’s unconstitutional, and it should be returned to the states? Or is he going to retreat from that view?” Mr. Perry retorted that Mr. Romney was just trying to scare seniors. This is an issue that could prove to be a loser for both men. While it might be a plus in retiree-heavy swing states like Florida in a general election, forcefully defending a massive, bankrupt federal program is hardly going to help Mr. Romney win over skeptical conservative primary voters. And if Mr. Perry wins the nomination, he might have trouble with the senior vote if they’re worried about losing their benefits from Uncle Sam.
Fair or not, the Social Security issue exposes the perceived weak spots of the two leading candidates.
Right-leaning primary voters are suspicious that Mr. Romney isn’t genuinely conservative, and they are a little nervous that Mr. Perry might lack depth. More debates and lots of time on the stump will shake out answers to both questions.
The consistently impressive performances of the second-tier candidates show how deep this field of elephants is. For the second debate in a row, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was sharp and stayed on message, making many speculate what a formidable challenger he would have been if he hadn’t tripped out of the blocks. Texas Rep. Ron Paul attracted the usual whoops and hollers from his devoted followers, and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain continues to be the most likable and compelling new face in national politics. If political correctness didn’t have everyone in a cold sweat about the supposed backwardness of a national ticket with two white guys on it, former Sen. Rick Santorum — from Pennsylvania, an important swing state — would be an obvious choice for vice president.
He is a tough, prepared debater who could make mincemeat of current veep Joe Biden if they went head-to-head.
The diversity of experience and wealth of interesting policy ideas in this group stand in stark contrast to the tired Jimmy Carter-era left-wing agenda of President Obama. Barack should be nervous that voters will no longer believe he’s “The One” next year.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the forthcoming book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, November 2011).