It was a cold night in Iowa with a full moon at the ABC News/Drake debate.
And if Newt Gingrich and George Stephanopoulos had conjured this future 20 years ago, it would have been both a good dream and a nightmare.
Because here was Newt as the newly minted GOP frontrunner in the second decade of the 21st century. And his former nemesis, the Clinton communications director, was asking the questions as the moderator of the pre-caucus Iowa debate.
Mitt Romney Abandons Frontrunner Strategy
By Eleanor Clift
Rattled by Newt Gingrich’s ascent in the polls, Mitt Romney abandoned his above-the-fray strategy at a primetime Republican debate in Iowa Saturday evening, grabbing every chance he could to assail Gingrich. Asked to name their differences, he said first of all he wasn’t a career politician, and then he ticked off the former speaker’s support for ideas that seem outlandish, like a lunar colony and eliminating child labor laws.
Smiling through Romney’s bill of particulars, Gingrich noted that Romney would have been a 17-year career politician if he’d won his race against Ted Kennedy for a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Then he defended the idea of America being in space along with giving poor kids the same opportunities for work that middle-class kids have. He showed his ability to deflect attacks, foreshadowing a primary contest that could come down to Romney with his carefully controlled responses against the freewheeling killer intellect that is Gingrich.
Romney Bets and Loses
By Mark McKinnon
Newt not only survived, but thrived, and showed why he deserves to be the frontrunner and why he's not likely to lose altitude quickly
And Mitt Romney, after a series of flawless debate performances, made a huge unforced error proposing a $10,000 bet. Basic errors and bad moments are one thing. But when you make a mistake that reminds people of your greatest vulnerability, it can be a campaign killer.
The Mitt moment reminds me of when John Kerry took the stage in front of a hall of veterans and tried to explain a vote against funding American troops in battle, and said: "I actually voted for it, before I voted against it."
Newt’s Palestinian Outrage
By Michael Tomasky
If you looked at Saturday morning’s papers, you knew that the big issue coming into Saturday night’s debate was how Newt Gingrich was going to handle the Palestinian question. Saturday’s papers carried the news that Gingrich had described the Palestinians “an invented people” in an interview he taped with The Jewish Channel. Obvious and flagrant match thrown on raging gasoline. Would he actually stand by this?
He’s Newt! Of course he did! He doubled . . . no, he quintupled down. “The Palestinian’s story of the right of return is based on a historically false story,” he said. Then he naturally compared himself to Ronald Reagan, who called the USSR an “evil empire” against (says Gingrich) the best wisdom of his advisers and the State Department sellouts, and who “believed the power of truth reframed the world and restated the world.” Gingrich then added: “I’m a Reaganite.”
Video: The Daily Beast's John Avlon Reports From Iowa
Republican Debate Scorecard
By Rich Galen
With this being the first debate with Newt Gingrich atop the polls, the cognoscenti were primed for a coordinated attack against him by the other five debaters. (Jon Huntsman didn’t choose to participate). Newt is very good at this, and was able to swat away the few fastballs thrown at his chin and looked like he was very comfortable in the frontrunner role.
Mitt Romney (notwithstanding his $10,000 bet with Perry) took a while to get into his rhythm but once he did he had the effect of reminding people this is a two person race. Romney’s answer on not having grown up poor might have been his best of the night. It sounded like it came from his heart, not from his briefing book.
Newt Obliterates the Competition
By Paul Begala
A frontrunner has to live by the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.
But Newt Gingrich has never lived by conventional rules. He won the ABC News debate in Iowa not by rising above the attacks, as Mitt Romney did when he was leading the pack. Instead, renegade Newt threw haymakers at also-rans like Michele Bachmann, but was still smart and agile enough to come out ahead.
The money shot was when Rick Perry launched a frontal attack on Gingrich's well-reported marital infidelity. Newt retreated immediately to his age (68, suggesting he's too old to cat around anymore) and his (latest) religion. Most important, he didn't seem at all flustered. Of course, he has known this was coming for the last two marriages.
Mitt Loses His Inevitability
By Michelle Cottle
What the hell was Mitt thinking?
The big take away from tonight’s debate will undoubtedly be the governor’s $10k-bet moment—the most painful misstep since Rick Perry couldn’t call to mind three cabinet agencies. Bet your butt that, as Romney thrust his uncalloused hand at Perry, David Axelrod and Jim Messina damn near wet themselves with delight.
But the $10k flub was simply the most vivid symptom of Romney’s quasi-meltdown. Up to now the governor had looked consistently solid in these forums: calm, cool, reasonable, informed, somewhat robotic, but on the whole believably presidential.
Newt's Night of Aggression
By Andrew Sullivan
10.54 pm. Tapper is playing up the $10,000 Romney bet - and I suspect he's right to. It leapt out at me, along with the "Newt Romney" line from Bachmann. Other than that, Newt wins; Romney loses; Paul rises. Have yourself a shot. I sure will.
10.50 pm. So this is the end? Or not the end? Does Sawyer get to talk some more? That last round was congenial, like a group hug on American Idol. I think both Gingrich and Paul emerged the strongest frm this debate, while Romney failed to do or say anything to change the dynamic of his listless campaign. So ... Gingrich could well win Iowa. I don't see the trajectory changing any tonight.