Mitt Romney dispelled any doubts tonight whether he wants to be president badly enough to fight for it. He was much more comfortable, and effective, on the attack against Newt Gingrich than he was on Monday. Newt had a better debate as well, and Santorum turned in one of his better performances, especially when attacking Romney on Romneycare. But with polls showing Romney beginning to pull back into the lead, the real question is, as it was going into the final weekend in South Carolina: Does the Republican party want to nominate Mitt Romney?
Whether Florida will answer that question differently than South Carolina might turn on how they perceive Romney’s character after tonight. If they perceive Romney’s attacks as strong and fair, he’ll keep his lead. But if they view him as arrogant and rough, enough could pull back to make the outcome close enough to keep the race open.
One bad point for Mitt: He didn’t know it was his own radio ad that attacked Gingrich for allegedly calling Spanish the language of the ghetto. Newt picked up on this at one point, and if a man whose primary rationale for running is his ability to run his company, the fact he seemed not to know what his company was doing might undermine his credibility.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.