Debate Revs Up Romney

The candidate spent Friday ridiculing Gingrich and reveling in his own debate success, Lois Romano writes.

Mitt Romney must have used all his best material at Thursday’s debate, because by Friday night in Orlando, he was resorting to an old standby: reciting all the verses of “American the Beautiful” to a large rally. It had been a long day.

Romney swept into the noisy, cheering rally a very happy man, having slapped down his main rival both in a debate and in new polls.

He first order of business was to ridicule Newt Gingrich for his poor debate performance.

“Speaker Gingrich said the debate, before last night, that the crowd wasn’t allowed to cheer and so he couldn’t do so well, ’cause the crowd was too quiet,” Romney told the crowd of 500 at a paint warehouse. “Then, last night, he thought the crowd was too loud … It’s like Goldilocks, you know: His porridge is too hot, the porridge is too cold.”

He went on to say that he is looking forward to debating Barack Obama: “I’m not worried about the crowd. I’m going to make sure we tell the truth to Barack Obama and we get him out of the White House.”

Romney showed up with Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP standard-bearer, and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, who gave his endorsement—a helpful gesture in Florida, where 13 percent of the voters are Hispanic.

“What did you think of last night’s debate?” McCain asked. “Very rarely in these things do you see a knockout. You saw one last night.”

It was a certainly a more energized and confident candidate tonight than the one who lost the South Carolina primary to Gingrich a week ago. Today, the former House speaker seemed to be struggling to regain momentum going into Tuesday’s Florida primary.

Romney and Gingrich spent the day crisscrossing the state, wooing the critical Hispanic vote, and making their closing arguments before the primary. Rick Santorum headed back to his home state of Pennsylvania, and Ron Paul campaigned in Maine.

A new Quinnipiac University poll gives Romney a nine-point lead over Gingrich in the state, and a Reuters poll showed him eight points ahead.