The Triumphant Return of the Hack Gap
Speaking of the hack gap, can I take a little victory lap on this? Think about what we saw last night: Mitt Romney dispassionately marched through the entire oeuvre of conservative obsessions on foreign policy and rejected virtually every single one of them. He's getting out of Afghanistan with no conditions; he's happy we helped get rid of Hosni Mubarak; he'll take no serious action against Syria; he wants to indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the World Court; he didn't even mention Benghazi; and he refused to say straight-up that he'd support Israel if they bombed Iran. It's the kind of performance that should have had a guy like Charles Krauthammer tearing his hair out, but instead we got this:
I think it's unequivocal: Romney won. And he didn't just win tactically, but strategically.
Was there any rending of garments anywhere else? Not for a second. Conservatives just reveled in the fact that Romney apparently made himself acceptable to undecided voters. Yuval Levin: "Romney clearly achieved his aim." Ramesh Ponnuru: "Advantage Romney." Rich Lowry: "Romney executed what must have been his strategy nearly flawlessly." Bill Kristol: "Tonight, Romney seems as fully capable as—probably more capable than—Barack Obama of being the next president." Stanley Kurtz: "Romney has now decisively established himself as a credible alternative to Obama." Erick Erickson: "Mitt Romney won this debate."
On a substantive level, Romney's performance from a conservative point of view was worse than Obama's in the first debate. It was pure rope-a-dope, with Romney abandoning virtually every foreign policy position the right holds dear while utterly refusing to attack President Obama as the weak-kneed appeaser they believe him to be. And yet....no one seemed to mind. As far as the right is concerned, two weeks before an election is no time to get too worried over principle.