By Curtis, Bryan
Newsweek , Vol. 158, No. 14
Byline: Bryan Curtis
For the first time since he picked clean the assets of a dying company, Mitt Romney is grinning with real passion. The man who brought it out of him is Rick Perry. Their grappling theater is the best thing this side of Monday Night Raw.
In Orlando last week, Romney and Perry stood side by side at center stage, Perry to Romney's right. The second-tier Republican candidates fanned out to the sides; like us, they were an audience to the slugfest. By the end, Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, remarked, "I'm tempted to say that, when all is said and done ... Romney and Perry aren't going to be around, because they're going to bludgeon each other to death."
Romney came out determined to treat Perry like a yapping annoyance, a Rick Santorum. It was a savvy bit of gamesmanship, since Perry leads in national polls. "Nice try," Romney scoffed after Perry threw a jab. "I'm not sure exactly what he's saying," Romney said later. Still later: "It's an argument I just can't follow." Romney realizes his Republicanness is vulnerable to Perry's attacks. His strategy, perhaps, is to claim he doesn't understand Perry's drawl.
Perry, the drawler, could hardly get his words out. Nobody could follow his arguments. Asked what he'd do if Pakistan's nukes got loose, Perry stammered, "Well, obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That's one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with--and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States." Come again, partner?
It was a literary debate. With the (ghost)written word at stake, the candidates clawed at each other like Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. …