Daily Beast Contributors Weigh In on CNN Republican Florida Debate
Newt Swings and Misses
by Howard Kurtz
Gingrich botches several attacks during a clumsy night in the CNN debate. Howard Kurtz on how Romney found his footing while punching back.
Newt Gingrich waited half an hour to throw the first punch at Mitt Romney, and he missed badly.
In the opening moments of CNN’s debate in Jacksonville on Thursday night, Gingrich passed up one invitation to smack Romney and tried to deflect another Mitt attack without swinging back. Although Gingrich has used some tough rhetoric on the campaign trail, he once again seemed to be restraining himself on the debate stage, as he did in the NBC faceoff Monday night.
Mitt’s Florida Knockout Win
by Andrew Sullivan
Mitt has the money advantage in Florida, and he’s had two stellar debates in the last week. Read Andrew Sullivan’s live blog on why Romney's the frontrunner again.
Given Mitt’s big financial advantage in advertising in Florida, and the two debates, I think Gingrich lost this campaign in the past week. It wasn’t just the Drudge-Fox-Coulter establishment that will have done it. It was his much improved debate performance tonight.
That was not the debate I expected at all.
I expected a debate that featured a war between Gingrich's intellect and his instincts. Gingrich would try to act the front-runner, to play it cool, to refrain from outbursts.
Romney won on points, but nobody has raised his stock in these debates the way Senator Sweatervest has. Michelle Cottle on what makes Rick stick.
I swear Rick Santorum grows ever more adorable with each passing week.
More impressive still, unlike the rest of the Republican field, the former Pennsylvania senator has steadily grown in stature.
Coming into this race, Santorum was more Dan Savage punchline than serious candidate. But bit by bit, he has presented himself as a passionate, consistent, committed, articulate, thoughtful, and—dare I say it—likable statesman.
Mitt had a good night, but not good enough to distract attention from the many vulnerabilities he’d bring to the general election next fall.
The clear winner of the CNN debate was Wolf Blitzer. He called out Mitt Romney for falsely claiming he was not behind an ad that says Newt Gingrich called Spanish the language of the ghetto. He stood up to Newt’s phony anti-press bluster. And he included second-tier candidates like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.
When Newt hears the cheers of a right-wing crowd, he comes to life. But without the applause, he deflates. In Jacksonville, he was like a Macy’s balloon on Thanksgiving afternoon.
The question that emerges from Thursday night’s debate is: Have we seen the end of Newt? Not only did he not have any South Carolina-style moments; he blew the chances he had for such moments, and blew them badly. The big moment came right before the first commercial break, when Gingrich tried to hit Mitt Romney on his investments in Fannie and Freddie, and Romney fired back about Newt’s lobbying (or advising or whatever it was). If Romney wins this nomination, that new debate coach deserves an awfully nice bonus out of that blind trust. Except: How was it that Romney ended up defending the individual mandate?! A reasonably eloquent defense, too.
It was Mitt’s night by acclamation. Eleanor Clift on how he dismantled Gingrich.
For the first time in this string of debates, Mitt Romney emerged the clear winner, and not by default. He crushed Newt Gingrich to the point where the former Speaker at one point offered a truce in the tit for tat over their finances. A smiling Romney didn’t let up. Gingrich looked worn and tired, no doubt feeling the weight of the entire Republican establishment turning its firepower on him. He was on the defensive at every turn, starting with the immigration issue, where he stood by his assertion that Romney is “the most anti-immigration candidate.” An indignant Romney called on Gingrich to apologize for the “highly charged epithet,” and so the evening went.
Insults, indignation, and somebody's off to the moon. Tim Pawlenty weighs in on what went wrong with Gingrich.
After all the insults, posturing, righteous indignation, and flashes of genuine anger, the conventional wisdom quickly coalesced around the notion that not much happened during Thursday's debate to alter the prevailing dynamic in the Florida primary race—that Newt Gingrich has not managed to reach escape velocity, as he might put it, and Mitt Romney might be rocketing toward the moon.
Gingrich proposes everything from new interstate highways to a colony on the Moon, which his GOP opponents say are too costly to get done. Voters will likely ask themselves if he can fulfill all the promises he’s made.
If there was one critical takeaway for Florida voters from Thursday’s CNN Republican debate, it’s that Newt Gingrich’s opponents on stage all think of him as a bit of blowhard, with a lot of ideas that go nowhere.
The tired former speaker couldn't come close to his South Carolina performance, while Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum landed many punches.
Newt Gingrich is tired. His voice sounded rough. His half-hearted attempts to do his media-bashing riff–actually he tried it twice–fell flat. For the second time this week, he was unable to repeat the two A+ performances we saw in South Carolina. If the polls are correct, he will lose in Florida and did nothing tonight to change that trajectory.