Romney’s Debate Performances

1199723605In case you were out enjoying yourself over the weekend and missed them, there were two GOP debates in 24 hours. Luckily, we didn’t have anything better to do here at Boston Daily, so we watched both for you (we also watched Saturday’s Dem debate; we seriously need a hobby).

The results? Well, let’s say they weren’t good for our buddy, Mitt Romney. On Saturday, Romney got his ass handed to him by…oh, by everyone, actually. Yesterday, he faired a little bit better, though he took some shots from his main rival in New Hampshire, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

It definitely wasn’t Romney’s best weekend.

Romney is pretty stiff in these debates to begin with, but his main defect (the fact that he’s largely robotic and all but short-circuits when someone makes a joke about him or forces him to think extemporaneously) was truly exposed during Saturday night’s debate. Nearly all of the candidates landed zingers at Romney’s expense. Unsurprisingly, most of the barbs were about Romney’s reputation as a flip-flopper or the series of attack ads he’s run during the primary season. To wit:

* When Romney told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to stop misrepresenting his positions, Huckabee quickly quipped “which one?”

*In an exchange where the candidates were talking about a hero of the GOP, President Ronald Regan, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that if Regan were alive, he would wind up in “one of Mitt’s negative commercials.”

*McCain jumped in shortly thereafter, telling Romney “you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it still won’t be true.”

*While Romney was talking about the health care mandates he supports, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson joked “yeah, the ones you come up with.”

*During an insipid discussion about bringing “change” to Washington, in which Romney floated the idea that he’s the GOP’s “change” candidate, McCain scored arguably the biggest blow when he told his opponent “We disagree on many things, but you are the candidate of change.”

Ouch. At one point, it was so nasty that I half expected them to start making mom jokes.

In Romney’s defense, it’s nearly impossible to fend off four attackers at once. That said, he still did a poor job keeping his composure. Following one of McCain’s shots, Romney lamely whined “the continued personal barbs are interesting but unnecessary.” And after Huckabee’s crushing comment, Romney sat silent, and twisted his face into a disapproving scowl that made him look like he was badly constipated. It was a total drubbing, the kind of unrepentant beatdown usually dolled out by street thugs.

Last night was a bit better for Romney, though by then the damage had been done. McCain fired a few more shots about Romney’s negative attack ads and how he didn’t think New Hampshire would fall for them. And it looks like he’s right. The latest poll has McCain beating Romney in tomorrow’s primary by six percent.

The Romney camp is clearly worried, as evidenced by their press release blitz. Between Saturday and this morning, I received 41 emails from the Romney campaign with earnest subheads like “what they’re really saying about Mitt Romney” and “straight-talk detour.”

If Romney loses tomorrow night, it’s going to be awfully difficult for him to rebound and become the party’s nominee — whether he dips into his personal savings to sustain his campaign or not. In fact, we’re already getting a sense of Romney’s desperation. According to Herald reporter Jessica Van Sack, who’s done a fine job covering Romney’s floundering campaign, the Romney people are already looking ahead to Michigan.

And if he loses in New Hampshire, Van Sack says, expect to hear Romney’s staffers spin it as “two silvers and a gold” — second place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, in addition to his (and you probably missed this) largely insignificant win in Wyoming over the weekend.

No amount of spin, though, can hide the brutal truth: Romney is in serious trouble.