The Republican race for the presidential nomination was implicitly conceded Saturday, as none of Mitt Romney's Republican opponents made a serious effort to derail or even undermine his lead for that prize.
A rarity of political punditry did occur, incidentally, as ABC News observer Jake Tapper, in a rare display of network perspicacity, made that very important point in the network's initial commentary.
Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopoulos, and Josh McElveen were respectively acceptable, obfuscating and unmemorable as questioners. Stephenopoulos's twin sins of Democratic reflexes and self-centered participation, highlighted by his focus for minutes upon minutes on the pseudo-issue of whether states should have the right to ban contraceptives, once again proved that only Wolf Blitzer stands out as exquisite moderator in any of the debates. Scott Pelley and Diane Sawyer were not bad. Brian Williams is horrible, but good at promoting the importance of...Brian Williams.
The presumptive nominee is clearly former Gov. Mitt Romney, and if he is to be replaced in that position at this late date in debates, he would have to be depicted as irresponsible, dangerous or unelectable, and no one made or attempted to make any of those cases.
None of the nasty ad attacks by any of the candidates on other candidates was precisely reiterated, and I'm not convinced that a candidate has an obligation to violate decorum by using the same language he uses in an ad in a nationally televised debate.
Rick Santorum was what he always is: a well-prepared, pretty far right politician who lost his last election by 18 points and would lose badly as a presidential candidate. He has added to the debates consistently by making important observations regarding the societal consequences of the collectivist, anti-family ethic in America.
I never know quite what to make of Jon Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China in the Obama Administration. He never has seemed to have his heart in running, and he does not seem sufficiently contra-Obama to deserve the nomination.
Newt Gingrich's detestation of Gov. Romney appears to have dissipated, but his attack on the anti-conservative biases of the press was telling. He cited anti-religious bias and how it impacts social policy per the legal punishing of the refusal of, say, the Catholic Church to recognize gay marriage. One must say, parenthetically, that the consistent and insidious left-wing bias of the major networks' political reporting is so consistent that a reasonable person must infer that they are genuinely unaware of it. Walter Cronkite's deification and to this day the lack of realization of Dan Rather's erstwhile hatred of establishment Republicans are just two of the phenomena that demonstrate the lack of evenhandedness in recent and current reportage.
Ron Paul continued with his oxymoronic vicious nice guy routine, but avoided explaining the vile racial references existing for years in his newsletter, about which he has unconvincingly claimed ignorance.
Finally, Rick Perry continued his reputational rehabilitation with a clear, substantive performance, but that is, of course, not material to the eventual choice of the Republican nominee.
Mitt Romney, strong on economics, strong on foreign policy, inexplicable on some policy changes and health care policy except as a man who needed to win the Massachusetts governorship, is the winner in Saturday night's debate and deserves to be the Republican presidential candidate.
No one in Saturday night's debate made a dispositive argument to the contrary or much of any argument to the contrary.
--Prof. Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)