By Roland S. Martin
After seeing seven of the Republican presidential candidates go after each other with gusto, the man who really founded Las Vegas, mobster Bugsy Siegel, would certainly have been proud.
All of the candidates knew this debate was important, and it was apparent that Herman Cain trying to rub out Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the previous rising stars in the field.
But Perry came out firing in his opening statement, declaring that he was the only “authentic conservative,” a pointed critique of Romney. When he gave Romney a rhetorical slap over the hiring of illegal immigrants, Mitt grabbed Perry by the shoulder to keep him from interrupting. Perry clearly wanted to be aggressive, but may have crossed the line, appearing to tick off the audience several times with his remarks. Perry was channeling Sonny Corleone, who was always reminded to not be so hot-headed. We know how that ended!
Clearly former Sen. Rick Santorum did his best to whack as many candidates as possible, especially Perry over whether the Texas governor wrote a letter supporting TARP.
Who played the consigiliere all night trying to keep the peace? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. At one point I thought he was going to organize a meeting to keep all of the families from going to war on each other.
Bachmann? If there was a mob character she resembled tonight it was Fredo from “The Godfather.” If she raised her hand one more time to get noticed, Anderson Cooper was going to send her out on a fishing boat.
Rep. Ron Paul continued his libertarian rants, and was pretty much the guy in the room who kept bringing up the family business that no one wanted to talk about. Did he actually sully the reputation of President Ronald Reagan by bringing up the Iran-Contra scandal? I’m sure the GOP wishes Paul would pull a Frank Pentangeli and just go away. Quietly.
And after it has all been said and done, Romney is like Don Corleone. He has taken lots of shots, was left for dead politically after 2008, but he is still sitting at the top, in control, poised to make everyone kiss his ring as the leader of the GOP “family.”
Before Iowa, expect all of the remaining candidates to “go to the mat.” But in the end, Romney will still has to be knocked off before someone else gets to sit at the top of the family.