Daily Beast Contributors Weigh in on CNN South Carolina Debate

Did an angry Newt Gingrich triumph over a slumping Mitt Romney? Paul Begala, Michelle Cottle, and more on whether South Carolina’s primary just got interesting.

01.20.12 6:30 PM ET

Gingrich’s Anger Dominates Debate
by Howard Kurtz

He seizes on CNN question about his ex-wife to rip the “vicious” media. Howard Kurtz on why the Gingrich gambit might just work.

The only thing that mattered in Thursday night’s CNN debate was the first two minutes.

Newt Gingrich’s angry reaction to John King’s opening question about that allegations by the former congressman’s ex-wife—calling it “close to despicable,” and the handiwork of a “destructive” and “vicious” media–overshadowed everything that followed.


Santorum’s Weak Attacks
by Michelle Cottle

Senator Sweater Vest valiantly blasted Gingrich’s pomposity. But he’s no match for the Ego that ate the debate. By Michelle Cottle

“Elect us, and your kids will be able to move out because they’ll have work!”

So spake Newt Gingrich Thursday evening, in the sort of meaningless, pie-in-the-sky, detached-from-reality bluster that has him surging so dramatically in this primary.


Newt Rampages, Romney Folds
by Paul Begala

In the most consequential debate of the primary season, Gingrich won the debate in the first minute and left Romney looking weak.

Wow. The 17th GOP debate was the most electric—and the most consequential—of this primary season.

Newt Gingrich won the debate in the first minute by casting himself as the victim not of a failed marriage but of a corrupt liberal media that is in bed with Barack Obama.



Newt: One Tough SOB
by Lloyd Grove

The former speaker lashed out like the tough guy he is, as he endured everything from John King’s questions about his ex-wife’s open-marriage allegation to Santorum’s attack on his leadership abilities.

Newt Gingrich was like a giant death star, threatening at any moment to suck into his field of gravity every single molecule of matter—from his rival presidential candidates on the stage beside him to the raucous South Carolina Republicans in the audience in front of him.


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican presidential candidate debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

David Goldman / AP Photo

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican presidential candidate debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

Romney’s Tax Flub
by Eleanor Clift

Newt grabbed the headlines, but Mitt’s fumbling over what to do with his tax returns may haunt him for months to come.

Republican primary voters have a tough choice. Mitt Romney still looks the most presidential of the foursome, but his claim of electability is wearing thin. In each successive debate, he reminds me more of Robert Redford in The Candidate. He will say and do whatever it takes, including withholding his tax returns until after he secures the nomination. Newt Gingrich is right when he says if there’s something in Romney’s tax returns that could sink his candidacy, it’s better to know now than after he’s the nominee.



Newt: Master of the Turnaround Line
by Michael Tomasky

The question of Gingrich’s ex-wife came up at the start of the debate, and the ex-speaker deftly turned it to his advantage, earning two standing ovations and showing he’s best at the turnaround ploy.

What’s the difference between watching one of these debates on television versus being in the hall? I was in the hall last night, as I have been on too many other occasions to defend as proper use of a human being’s time, going back to Admiral James Stockdale’s famous “Why Am I Here?” moment in 1992.



A Winning Final Four at the GOP Debate in Charleston
by Michael Medved

Finally, a debate with seriousness and substance. No more ‘oops’ moments, 9-9-9, or X-ray eyes—just Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum, of whom three looked presidential, two are plausible nominees, and one might even beat Obama.

Late-night comedians may lament the absence of Rick Perry—no more magical “oops!” moments; no more identifying the prime minister of our NATO ally Turkey as an “Islamic terrorist”—but Republican partisans ought to feel gratified by the latest and best of the GOP presidential debates.