Last Night's GOP Debate: Rick Santorum's Slow Exit

[credit: AP photo]
So, there it is; Rick Santorum is toast. Let me explain why.

During last night's CNN debate, when talking about the No Child Left Behind Act, Santorum cracked this gem:
I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team for the leader. And I made a mistake.
Um, WOW.

Okay, so a couple of things happened in this relatively short comment.

1. Firstly, Rick Santorum admitted that he 'made a mistake'. It is indeed a rarity in politics that a politician admits making a mistake. Let alone a politician who is running for president.

Some might argue that this is refreshing, others a sign of weakness. I simply fall into the category of shocked.

2. Secondly, a point perhaps even more intriguing to me than Santorum admitting making a mistake lies in the second sentence in that quote:
It was against the principles I believed in, but when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team for the leader.
Yes, you read that correctly; Santorum said that he set aside his principles and followed his party.

In nearly all political arguments in any ideological background I hear people touting their candidate's independence of thought. The comment always comes up in the form of, 'My Guy does not kowtow to his party.' or 'Candidate X will stand up to people -- even in his own party!'

Well, last night Mr. Santorum admitted to the country that he buckles under pressure from his party leaders. Oh sure, he thinks that it was a mistake, but conservatives -- particularly in the Tea Party movement -- will be hard-pressed to support someone who abandons their principles in favor of what is tantamount to political 'peer pressure'. Folks in the Tea Party movement, and elsewhere, want someone representing them who shares their values and ideals. But that person needs to fight for those values and ideals when challenged. Santorum's admission flies in the face of that.

3. Lastly, overall, there was no major shift in power as a result of the collective performance.

Ron Paul was consistent, as always. You know what you are getting with the Ron Paul candidacy -- and he never makes any big headlines at the debates.

Newt Gingrich was clearly no longer a front-runner and made no real efforts to regain that status. He made some good points, and got several good applause lines, but I think that he knows that he's still in the race simply because folks like Sheldon Adelson continue to pump money into his campaign. If this was 2008, Newt would have dropped out months ago.

Mitt Romney had a few good one-liners, but largely appeared to be the same guy that he was in the previous 19 debates; the Guy To Beat.

In the end, I think that this debate was Santorum's to lose -- and lose he did. His seemingly endless, meandering responses to questions on earmarks and the V-22 Osprey (the most essential air platform for our Marines!) left many-a-head spinning. Most importantly, he needed to show that he was going to take down Mitt Romney -- and that just did not happen.