The Mesa Debate

It was the last debate before next week’s primaries. Our experts weigh in on who won and who lost.

The No. 1 takeaway from the debate in Arizona is that Rick Santorum was the loser. He came into the event riding a tremendous wave of late deciders. Instead of being prepared for obvious attacks on his record (especially with regard to earmarks), he made the terrible mistake of trying to explain a complex issue with natural-soundbite negatives to an audience who did not want to hear it. He almost dragged the whole group down, as both Gingrich and Paul attempted to clarify the matter. Romney wisely stayed the course in the role of an indignant foe of the practice. Santorum also sounded like the kind of conservative who wants to deal with government programs he doesn’t like by enacting other government programs. It didn’t play well. He will lose support. The only question is how many people were watching and how far the message will spread.

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