Let me finish tonight with the reality of last night. I know one thing from hard experience: if the American people want change, if they're not happy with the person in the White House, they will find an alternative. We the people don't accept failure.
So the question is whether the Republican Party can do its job of coming up with an acceptable alternative to the president.
Last night, they made a lot of progress toward making that decision. They moved the process from the preliminaries to picking what now looks to be the final bracket: the western conference - that being the Tea Party, and the eastern conference - that being the establishment party.
For the western division, Gov. Rick Perry looks like the uncontested winner. Rep. Bachman is falling and Mitt Romney has said he's not a member of the Tea Party.
For the Eastern Division, I see the same clarity. Looks like Romney has it won. Like others, I find Jon Huntsman's remarks refreshing. He appeals to people who are at home with science and modern life generally, but I sense that he's a member of a Republican party that no longer exists - a party that includes suburban moderates who want smaller government but object to theocracy and believe in the science they were taught in school.
So here we go, already, to the finals. Between now and the Iowa caucuses, this is going to be a struggle over who speaks best to and for the new Republican Party, a GOP that has become home to the Tea Party.
I think right now it's Rick Perry. With all his excesses, he has the gut of the Republican right. He has the anger, the contempt, the deep feelings of animosity that's out there in the country. You get the sense he feels what he speaks long before he speaks it. He is out there on the stump seething with contempt for Washington.
Mitt Romney comes across - even after 17 years of running for office - as essentially a business guy – the kind of fellow moved by the latest news in the Wall Street Journal rather than the angry rant on its editorial page.
Rick Perry seems like the kind of fellow who reads the Journal editorials and listens to Rush Limbaugh, cheering deep down in his Texas gut. He's not out there "auditioning" for the job of conservative voice - he "is" one. That voice you hear coming from Rick Perry is Rick Perry.
With Romney, you get the sense you're hearing the latest line gathered up by his staff and served to him for use that night. Why would the Tea Party-driven Republican Party run someone who has learned to talk like them when they can rally behind someone - Rick Perry - who is one of them? Just a thought – until I get a better one my bet's on him.