Here’s my opinion on the fall out of the Jan. 19th CNN Debate:
Newt was immediately set up for a home run hit. You can’t ask Gingrich a question he expects well in advance and expect him to flinch. He was ready, the anger calculated. He just let it rip. It’s like knowing the pitcher is going to throw a fastball before you even get up to the plate and where he’s going to put it. Gingrich knocked it out of the park. That said, it just deflected the personal attack agenda that every candidate on stage was ready to engage in if Gingrich wasn’t as proficient as he was in deflecting it.
Romney adapted instantly and just side stepped the issue with a nice: “Let’s get to the real issues.” This comment in and of itself protected Romney from the wrath of Gingrich for the rest of the debate. Gingrich was very gracious to allow Romney the wiggle room he needed to get out of the hard questions that he faces rather than slamming down on him like he could have. Lest there be any allusions, Gingrich is the superior debater. And in his closing remarks he made the race with Obama about who can debate the best. Gingrich was definitely play on, and using his strengths to get affirmation from the crowd.
Romney was a little slow on the answering of his tax issues, but largely, I think he effectively placed the attack in the “Non-issue” category, which was effective enough. He says he’ll release them and he’ll decide how many years to release. Considering he got boo’s on this, let me suggest that most candidates only release ONE year. C, though I had to give it to him.
As far as immigration went Romney was pretty cool on it. Romney did a great job of patiently explaining the nuances of the situations that Rick Santorum failed to grasp. Rick made some great attack remarks tonight, but they just didn’t hit and also were deflected calmly and with composure. Round to Romney, but Rick looked strong. Santorum also looked strong attacking Gingrich about his time in Congress with inside information that he knew. I think that definitely will weaken resolve that Gingrich is the right answer. This was played up by Romney saying that he spent most of his career in Congress while Mitt spent most of his life making a living for himself. Romney successfully defended that he worked himself up to wealth, and Gingrich didn’t challenge him on that either. Round to Romney.
I don’t think Gingrich ever straight up won a round against Romney. Romney was certainly the most attacked, but I think the punches were issues people had already made up their mind about. The tax issue isn’t a big issue for most of the voting class.
In summary: I think Romney stopped the bleeding and showed he can stand up just fine to attacks from Gingrich and Santorum. Paul was pretty much a non factor.
I think, in grades it was:
A – Gingrich
A- – Romney (Just for fumbling a little on the tax question.)
A – Ron Paul.
B+ Santorum (He’s still too whiny and combative.)
But let’s look at this, I gave A’s to Gingrich and Paul. An A- to Romney and a B+ to Santorum. That was on their debate performance, but let’s look at how it may transfer to votes.
I think Gingrich is going to lose more votes tonight than gain any. Staunch supporters will still do so, and some of his new found ones. Perry’s endorsement is not completely hollow, but I think Romney reaffirmed that he can hang with the good old boy and thus will get some of his voters back. Romney’s weakness in the last debate put people off, but I think he’ll win a couple percent back tonight. Paul will be Paul and I think Santorum will be the big loser here, votes going from Santorum to Romney and maybe Gingrich.
All that said, there’s a very real and clear chance that Gingrich could be the winner of SC. I think Romney shored up his position well enough to protect his image going into Florida, but skipping debates most likely will do nothing but hurt him if he doesn’t go. There is the small possibility that the debates will get very petty without Romney there to temper it, but we’ll see.
My hope: Romney wins SC.
Reality: Gingrich is leading and tonight probably did little to change that.