01.24.12 5:20 AM ET
Daily Beast Contributors Weigh In on NBC Republican Debate in Tampa
Romney hits Gingrich hard and Newt punches back in the NBC debate. Howard Kurtz on how Mitt’s Florida gamble left both men bruised.
Mitt Romney was so anxious to attack Newt Gingrich in Monday’s NBC debate that it was as though he was delivering a PowerPoint presentation on speed.
Bam! Newt “had to resign in disgrace” as House speaker. Bam! He was an "influence peddler." Bam! He sat on a sofa with Nancy Pelosi. Bam! He called the Medicare voucher plan “right-wing social engineering.”
Gingrich and Romney swap tactics, but—as of now—Obama wins the national election in a landslide.
Maybe Gingrich is trying to reassure the establishment that he is not the constant bomb-thrower and surprise agent. Maybe he realizes he needs to look more presidential. My own take is that this gambit cannot work for Newt. He is not a serene statesman. He's a ferocious demagogue. That's all he knows. I don't find the new Newt very appealing. But maybe tactically, it makes sense.
The headline from the Monday night debate was of course Romney's burst of combativeness against Gingrich, and Gingrich's oddly listless replies.
Newt Gingrich toned down something else as well: his racial politics. In South Carolina he fired off a cannonade of racial cues, culminating—incredibly—in his assertion that work was a "strange concept" to Juan Williams.
Without the cheering and jeering crowds to whip him up, Newt was oddly subdued. That left Mitt in the spotlight, squirming about his tax returns.
When NBC’s Matt Lauer asked multimillionaire Mitt Romney about income inequality and the decline of the middle class, Romney replied, “You know, I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms.”
Lauer’s NBC colleague Brian Williams gave Romney and his competitors a chance to discuss issues without the cheering, jeering, booing, embarrassing crowds we have seen in prior GOP debates. Without the roar of the crowd, Newt was much less effective. Like all bullies, he feeds off the mob. But tonight, at the urging of Williams, the crowd was mute and Gingrich’s faux fury, so effective in prior debates, never materialized.
Gingrich turned in an uncharacteristically restrained performance at the Tampa debate. Michelle Cottle on why without his trademark smugness, Newt packs a light punch.
Best line of the evening: “Cane sugar hides behind beet sugar.”
If that bit of Newtonian wisdom left you scratching your head, don’t feel bad. Gingrich’s entire debate performance Monday night was a bit perplexing. Why was he so restrained? Where was the snarling badger? Why didn’t he rip out Romney’s throat when the governor was shoving Freddie Mac down his? Was he depressed? Had he and Callista had a fight?