Something was different about last night’s Republican presidential CNN debate.
That is, besides the compacted stage set-up with candidates seated in low, spiny chairs, which produced close moments of tense conversation that were awkward in their intimacy.
Amid the usual debate crosstalk, there was a lot of politeness and agreement on stage last night.
During a back-and-forth about earmarks, Mitt Romney apologized to Rick Santorum, saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.” Later on in the earmark discussion Santorum called Ron Paul, “One of the most prolific earmarkers in the Congress today,” but quickly followed it up with, “And I’m not — I’m not criticizing.”
Later in the debate when the questioning turned to contraception, while Romney was talking, Santorum looked more like a Yes-Man bobble head than an opponent as he steadily nodding in agreement with Romney. (Go to the 44:45 mark to see the bobble in action.)
And when Romney concluded his comment on the issue of contraception and health care in Massachusetts, the camera zoomed out and Newt Gingrich, in what seemed like an absolute moment of sincerity, said “Nice job.” (Check out the 51:00 mark for this exchange.)
However, after a night of closeness – both physically and on some of the issues – things look different in the light of day. Now members of Santorum’s camp are saying that there is a “tag-team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.”
Without a stage and cameras to bring them together, it looks like the pleasantries of last night are in the past.