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Obama-Romney in Palm Beach: The GOP Suffers a Knockout

They were back in force again last night, some 40 strong local GOPers to cheer on the Romster at the Palm Beach Ale House. No red-white-and-blue boaters as at PrezDebate I, but balloons on the tables in red and blue with white stars. Almost cheerful enough to make up for a roomful of 16 TV screens full of Smirkjerk Bill O'Reilly doing the lead-in. 

The Romster's opening remarks include thanks to Obama "for being part of this debate," which the crowd takes as a dig, cheering and clapping. They'll keep it up throughout the next 90 minutes, but long stretches of dead silence show they'd often rather the prez had stayed home.
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From O-man's very first shots, answering a question about job creation, it's clear he's back in form. The crowd hoots his claim to have created 5 million jobs in the past three years. But as he hammers away on job creation through investment in education, green energy, and infrastructure, the room goes silent. And it stays that was for a good long stretch, as O-man boils the Romster's economic "five-point plan" down to "one point: to make sure folks at the top play by a different set of rules." 

Revealing moment number one, and a downer for the GOP crowd, comes as their man, cornered on Obama's rescue of the auto industry, tries to bully moderator Candy Crowley for additional time. Unlike wimpoid moderator Jim Lehrer in PrezDebate I, Crowley's having none of it. "I want to move you on," she tells the Romster. Clearly, tonight won't be a replay of Obama's disaster movie of two weeks ago.

A question about energy prices follows, and the crowd goes nuts at Mitt's two mentions of the Keystone Pipeline. They love the pipeline! Back-and-forth sniping on oil leases gives way to concluding remarks from O-man on "an energy strategy for the future." The Romster tries to dictate the rules. "He got the first question," he tells Crowley. "I get the last answer on that one." Crowley spanks him again, while O-man sighs, "I'm used to being interrupted." (Somewhere in the distance, one hears "the woman vote" turning Dem and GOP spinmeisters sharpening their knives for Ms. Crowley.)  

It's a dreary evening for the GOPers, all in all, not helped in the least by the presence of three young black men at nearby tables, thoroughly and very loudly enjoying the Return of Super O and his string of zingers. Obama's tax plans? "The only reason it's not happening is because Gov. Romney's allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent." Rom's supposed budget-balancing? "We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that." 

Not to say the crowd wasn't game. Most reliably, they cheer anytime Mitt touts his Wall Street background, the basis for his central, recurring theme: "I know what it takes." What it takes to get jobs back, get the economy going, balance a budget, what have you. 

"Obama never ran anything in his life," a woman in the crowd tells Fire Ant when the verbal duel is over. "Obama doesn't know anything," a second woman, semi-rabid, blurts out. "Only ever worked as a, what, community organizer?!" "Romney knows the economy from his experience in business and as a governor," a third chimes in. 

Whether government, or even the economy, is a business may be debatable -- for others. (How does government calculate profit? Is "the economy" -- though businesses comprise a great part of it -- itself a business?) But faith in business is the touchstone of the GOP creed and central to its vision of the American character.

That vision has roots and was described by our first great chronicler, the Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville: "As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans," he wrote in 1831, "one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?"

With a League of Billionaires funding Romney's campaign and a mass of true believers buying into his pitch, we may soon find out the value of the White House and how much money it will bring in -- and for whom.

Fire Ant, an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite, covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected].

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