The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

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).

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