If Sylvester Stallone ever decides to make Rocky VII perhaps he should cast Mitt Romney in the lead. The former governor of Massachusetts and sometimes Republican front runner came out swinging in Tuesday night's GOP debate in Las Vegas, deftly schooling Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum on how to dominate and control your opponents while still keeping your cool and looking presidential.
The evening began with Cain having to vigorously defend his controversial 9-9-9 plan which, according to the Tax Policy Center, would raise taxes on 84% of taxpayers, hit the poor and middle classes the hardest, and benefit the rich. When challenged by his opponents, Cain kept dismissing as incorrect such independent research and instead urged voters to look at "our analysis" on his website. Sure, why trust all those crafty outside wonks when you get all the truth you need right from the Cain camp!
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO also tried to justify his tax plan with a convoluted analogy about "apples and oranges" that I'm still trying to figure out. I'm not sure how he ran Godfather's financials, but Cain clearly needs a math lesson in adding up his apples and oranges. As Romney quipped, "I'm going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I've got to pay both taxes..."
Throughout the debate Romney was attacked from all sides and at several points Santorum and Perry simply talked over him during his allotted time, which clearly angered him. The most heated exchange occurred when Perry accused him, to boos and hisses from the audience, of hiring illegal aliens.
"You lose all of your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year," Perry barked, calling Romney's anti-illegal immigration stand the "height of hypocrisy." He then interrupted Romney's reply, prompting an aggressive push back: "I'm speaking, I'm speaking," Romney asserted. "This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and so I understand that you're going to get testy." He lectured Perry on debate etiquette a few moments later after another intense exchange: "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking.... And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you have got to let both people speak."
The night was owned by Romney. He exposed Cain's 9-9-9 for the sham it is; won the alpha male contest with Perry; shut down Santorum; smartly ignored Michele Bachmann; and got uber-arrogant Newt Gingrich to sheepishly admit that he was for an individual mandate before he was against it. I can't imagine his poll numbers not rising while Perry's sink deeper into single-digit Bachmann country.
As for Cain, he simply appears like the clumsy two-left-footed Little Leaguer who no one wants to criticize and who gets condescending props just for lumbering out into the field. Clearly, despite his current faux-front runner status, no one, especially Romney, seems to take him as a serious threat. Unless there's some giant skeleton suiting up in Romney's closet, he'll coast to the nomination.
The low point of the debate? Perry repeatedly referring to Cain as "brother" in what sure as hell seems like way too familiar a term for a white politician with a Texas drawl to be calling a black man.