In the debate the night before, for example, Romney argued that only Washington politicians would call him a mere "manager" for having been a CEO. They just didn’t understand the world of the real economy and all of the leadership skill it takes to run a business. “I wish people in Washington had the experience of going out and working in the real economy first, before they went there, and they’d understand some of the real lessons of leadership,” said Romney, who argues that business experience is a necessary requirement for improving the economy as president.
Santorum and Gingrich offer a different kind of leadership. The experience they present entails working within the political system to move the country in their chosen direction. Gingrich has the better case. He's done more, and he offered a strong argument for how you can lead and work with the other party even when you are trying to defeat its leaders in elections. “As speaker I was negotiating with Bill Clinton. He knew I wanted him to be a one-term president. And we got a lot of things done, including welfare reform … the first tax cut in 16 years, 4.2 percent unemployment, and four straight years of a balanced budget.”
Jon Huntsman’s brand of leadership contains Romney-like executive leadership from his time as a governor, and he also made the case that he is not a part of the political class that trades insults and acts for electoral gain. Taking umbrage at Romney's criticism from the night before that he had worked for President Obama as ambassador to China, Huntsman said he was offended that his public service and duty to country was so devalued. It was that kind of attack, he argued, that has made politics a zero-sum game in which nothing gets done. It was his strongest debate so far and the best articulation of his candidacy. It will win him the support of editorial pages, but it's not clear Republicans will reward him for it in the primary on Tuesday.
Will any of this talk of leadership and baloney affect the nomination? Romney has a formidable organization and a lot of money. His rivals continue to shine in ways that will make each of them plausible and attractive to voters trying to find an alternative to Mitt Romney, which will lead them to continue to split the vote and give Romney an edge. The attacks may have damaged him a little but they weren’t sustained. To overcome his expected win in New Hampshire—which will boost his air of inevitability—his rivals are going to have to make “pious baloney” synonymous with Mitt Romney.