CONCORD, New Hampshire -- Mitt Romney's generally strong debate performance was marred by two small and inexplicable shadings of fact -- moments that left reporters, rivals, and allies shaking their heads and wondering why he he couldn't just give a straight and obvious answer to relatively trivial questions.
Early in the debate, Rick Santorum pressed Romney on why he hadn't run for re-election in 2006, when his first term as Governor expired. Romney suggested it was because politics isn't his calling:
I think it's unusual, and-- and perhaps-- understandable, that people who spend their life in politics imagine that if you get in politics that that's all you wanna do. That if you've been elected to something, well, you get-- wanna get reelected and reelected.
I went to Massachusetts to make it different. I didn't go there to begin a political career, running time and time again. made a difference. I put in place the things I wanted to do. I listed out the accomplishments we wanted to pursue in our administration. There were 100 things we wanted to do. Those things I pursued aggressively. Some we won. Some we didn't.
Run again? That would be about me. I was trying to help get the state in best shape as I possibly could. Left the-- the world of politics, went back into business.
This is, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, ridiculous. Romney left the governor's office for a presidential campaign that hasn't stopped since.
You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president. You didn't have this interlude of ... citizenship while you thought about what to do. You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country. You were-- you were out of state consistently.
You then promptly reentered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy.
The second apparent fib came when Romney was asked about the ads attacking Newt Gingrich aired by Restore our Future, the Super PAC that supports Romney.
"I haven't seen the ads," he said.
Seconds later: "The ad I saw said you were forced out of the speakership."
Romney went down to list attacks from the ad in question, which could be any of (or some combination of) the Restore Our Future spots.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said after the debate Romney meant to say he hadn't seen all the ads. "He described the one ad he did see," he said.