Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney touts his 25 years of private sector experience as a major factor that distinguishes him from long-time politician and current GOP 2012 frontrunner Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But as Monday's debate demonstrated, it could be his political experience, and specifically his unsuccessful 2008 run for president, that helps him regain the lead.
Romney appeared to be the so-called winner of the CNN/Tea Party debate in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, as Perry acted as a punching bag for the rest of the field. While he didn't take the beating Perry endured, Romney remained confident, prepared, and well-spoken throughout. Clearly he had done this before. Though he was able to defend himself for the most part, Perry's lack of past debate experience showed.
For the Texas governor, who jumped into the race late and rather unexpectedly, this was only his second time on a national, high-profile, presidential debate stage. As he's now certainly discovered, it's pretty different from a statewide stage in Texas (and even in his gubernatorial runs he largely avoided debates). By contrast, Romney, who ran for president in 2008, has done more than a dozen of these things.
Romney's also had more than three years to learn from his mistakes of the last race and to practice how to defend his own record in a debate setting. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake from the Washington Post's "The Fix" point out the benefits: "Say what you want about Romney having been preparing for this campaign for the last three years; it shows, and it has paid dividends. He routinely makes himself look like the most prepared candidate on the stage, and standing right next to Perry (within arms length) on Monday night made that comparison even clearer."
So, for all the "career politician" attacks on Perry, Romney's more recent career as a presidential politician might be his unsaid strength this debate season.