What did the GOP elite think of last night’s debate?

Rove, Cheney and influential pundits still divided on Rick Perry's electability, though no one much loves Romney

Topics: 2012 Elections, War Room, Mitt Romney, National Review, Rick Perry,

What did the GOP elite think of last night's debate?Dick Cheney, Rick Perry and Karl Rove

One contest in the GOP nominating process that is much more important than the Ames Straw Poll is the unofficial Republican Party elite primary. This is waged in the pages of the Wall Street Journal opinion section and at various “Beltway cocktail parties” or whatever it is party elites do when they’re socializing with one another. These gentlemen don’t hand-select the nominee (well, most of the time — every now and then there’s a George W. Bush) but they have veto power (sorry, Ron Paul). What did they think of last night’s candidate debate?

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been hating on Romney with great intensity for some time now, and while they’d like to see a Mitch Daniels onstage (to the point where they’ve even flirted with Obama-loving pseudo-moderate Jon Huntsman), they seem to be getting comfortable with Rick Perry. Here’s longtime WSJ fixture James Taranto praising Perry’s lust for capital punishment and Carl Kelm noting Perry’s “authenticity and boldness.”

But Perry has his problems with the establishment. Specifically, the still-powerful Bush guys, who hold some sort of personal grudge against the current Texas governor for things he said about his predecessor once it became politically expedient to criticize George W. Bush. Karl Rove attacked Perry for his stupid Social Security remarks earlier this week (Rove is an election-winner first and an ideologue second), and Dick Cheney also made a point of defending America’s favorite Ponzi scheme. Rove said he was “surprised” that Perry criticized Rove during the debate.

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At the National Review — the home of the “conservative intellectual” and the sort of place that would like to see Paul Ryan make a go of it — the general consensus seems to be that Perry is the sort of guy who’ll rile up the rubes without scaring the grown-ups, which makes him a very good candidate indeed. (Though some of the smarter/more cynical ones are concerned about future Social Security-related attack ads.)

Also, “MSNBC is dumb.” Thanks for that, Jonah.

It seems like the elite are still divided on Perry’s electability, but I imagine they’ll eventually consider him a suitable replacement for the bizarrely hated Mitt Romney.

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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