A line about hanging Obama didn't help an otherwise bad Friday-night speech in New Hampshire
Last night's Republican gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire was touted as a "summit" on jobs and the economy by its sponsor, the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, and it included five Republican presidential hopefuls. Unofficially, it was Mitt Romney's debut as a 2012 candidate. There have been several iterations of Romney-the-politician over the years. The 2011 vintage is said to differ from the 2007-08 vintage mainly in being less singularly fixated on social conservatism, more focused on the economy, and more "relaxed," which, in politics, generally means shedding your necktie.
Romney, sans necktie, looked a little older, a bit whiter in the temples, tanned and rested. Whatever product he once used in his hair he now seems to be using less of. His expensive sports coat and patrician mien gave him a country club aspect that probably wasn't quite what he was aiming for, but then Romney was off in just about every facet of his performance.
The format didn't help anybody. Beginning with Tim Pawlenty, each candidate spoke for eight minutes and then took one or two questions from an AFP official on stage. There was no debate and the question were softballs; no was going to be challenged. So the evening became a competition to see who could spin the most outlandish conservative fantasy. Pawlenty had the misfortune of going first and might not have realized what a gimme the event was going to be. He called only for "getting the government off our backs," made the customary paeans to American greatness, and used the question-and-answer segment to apologize profusely for having once supported cap and trade ("I changed my position...it was a mistake, I'm stupid and I'm sorry...it was ham-fisted...I no longer have that position...it was really ham-fisted").