A few thoughts on the Myrtle Beach debate

Fox News

Article Highlights

  • Rick Santorum attacked Romney harshly on his support for voting rights for felons who have served their time

    Tweet This

  • Romney was ragged in the first half of the debate and his responses to attacks on his Bain record were not fully developed

    Tweet This

  • Gingrich was not put as much on the defensive on the pro-Gingrich superPAC ad as he should have been

    Tweet This

This debate was held against the background of things going Mitt Romney’s way: he continues to be ahead, tenuously in some polls and by growing margins in others, in South Carolina as well as nationally, even as he finds himself the target of sustained attacks by the pro-Newt Gingrich superPAC and, in a sudden surge, by Rick Santorum.

Santorum, fired up from a long day’s campaigning ending in a talk at the Faith and Freedom rally in a tent across the street from the debate site, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, attacked Romney harshly in the first segment on, of all issues, his support for voting rights for felons who have served their time. Santorum had voted to restore their voting rights and argued that a pro-Romney superPAC ad against him on this issue was misleading (because it showed a prisoner in a jumpsuit while he had backed them only for those who had served their time and been through probation and parole). The two parried to show dominance, and I thought Romney was at an disadvantage on this, but it was an odd choice of issue for Santorum to take Romney on.

"If South Carolina voters are determined to pick presidents...he probably came through satisfactorily."--Michael Barone

I thought Romney was somewhat ragged in the first half of the debate and that his responses to attacks on his record at Bain were not as fully developed as they should be. He wasn’t as good on not bailing out Europe as he has been on other occasions. He became more solid on foreign policy and the treatment of enemy combatants, on entitlements and on segueing to his basic campaign themes as time went on. If South Carolina voters are determined to pick presidents—as South Carolina Republican Chairman assured viewers in a video that they were, and in fact they have played a key role in determining the Republican nominees in every cycle since 1988—he probably came through satisfactorily.

Newt Gingrich was not put as much on the defensive on the pro-Gingrich superPAC ad as he probably should have been, and he got marvelous applause from the audience on some later points, as on his calling for high school children to do janitorial work and on defending his Social Security proposal. Santorum scored well when he brought up, as he does in many of his extended public appearances, the Brooking study that showed that virtually no one who graduates from high school, works at a job and doesn’t have children until after getting married end up in poverty, he made an excellent point, and one which is probably not familiar to most listeners, even political junkies.

Rick Perry continues to improve and made the point—which Romney, Gingrich and Santorum have done on other occasions—that the Obama administration has conducted a “war on religion.” He was on national defense and reminded us a number of times (why didn’t he use this statistic in earlier debates?) that Texas has the 13th largest economy in the world. Ron Paul was Ron Paul.  

Michael Barone is a resident fellow at AEI

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

In year four of Dodd-Frank, over-regulation is getting old
image Halbig v. Burwell: A stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration
image Beware all the retirement 'crisis' reports
image Cut people or change how they're paid
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.