If the Republican presidential campaign were Survivor, last night’s debate in Florida was the episode where the most savvy competitors form an alliance against the energetic rival who keeps on winning Immunity. Frontrunner Rick Perry weathered a barrage of criticism from all sides, as Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum attacked him relentlessly for his policies as Texas governor. Romney and Perry took turns citing passages of each others’ books as evidence of flip-flopping, and Santorum hit Perry from the far right on Texas’ “soft” policy on illegal immigration. (Because when it comes to leadership on illegal immigration, the nation looks to Pennsylvania!)
Santorum’s bold performance — which included a well-received rant against the military’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — pushed Michele Bachmann further into the periphery, but it was little-known former New Mexican governor Gary Johnson who uncorked the zinger of the night when he said, “My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration.”
It was soon discovered that Johnson’s joke was virtually identical to a quip delivered by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show yesterday. But it’s not expected to hurt Johnson’s standing in the polls, where he was drawing just slightly more than 1 percent.
Who do you think won the debate last night? If one of the candidates had to get voted off the “island,” who would it be? And does Limbaugh get paid extra for scripting the candidates’ jokes — as well as their talking points?