|Different time frame, but same principal.|
Mitt Romney backed out of the CNN debate just prior to Super Tuesday (which is on March 6th). He was followed by Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in a move clearly designed not to let Newt Gingrich back into the race just prior to a mass of delegates being allocated by voters.
Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum decided to skip the March 1 debate that was to be co-hosted by CNN and the Georgia and Ohio state Republican parties, their campaigns confirmed Thursday.CNN decided to cancel the debate after being left with a single confirmation, Newt Gingrich, who would have been left to square off solo with moderator John King. Gingrich’s camp is unlikely to be happy with the turn of events as the former House speaker has used the nationally televised spectacles to savage the media and twice revive his lagging campaign.
It was the right tactical move for that objective. After all, Newt clearly has the best debate skill of the bunch. But for at least two of the candidates, it was the wrong strategic objective.
If you are Rick Santorum, or Ron Paul even, with Gingrich seemingly floundering, is it more important to finish him off or to strike at Romney and once and for all remove his front runner status? To me, the latter seems like the smarter strategic move. Certainly it's the bolder move. And the best way to accomplish that would be to go ahead and have a debate with a visibly missing Mitt Romney. No matter how anyone did in the debate, the next morning the media stream would be guaranteed.
Mitt Romney is either afraid to debate more, or his sense of entitlement has outstripped his reality. Either way, his approval numbers would drop. And they would drop just prior to a big day - Super Tuesday. What's more, he'd have no way to recover in the few days before Super Tuesday. What can he do? Demand a make-up debate and then complain when everyone says 'no'? He can't. It will look like the he wants to run the entire primary on his own, entitled schedule.
Instead, what is the possible story now? They are all afraid of Gingrich? That Santorum and Paul simply followed Romney's lead. That's me-too leadership, which is clearly not leadership.