Republican Debate: Newt Won and Romney Bombed with a Bet

Newt thrived and Romney bombed, which could make this debate a game-changer. Mark McKinnon on the $10,000 bet that will haunt Mitt for a long time. Plus, Eleanor Clift, Rich Galen, and more contributors weigh in.

Matthew Putney / ABC

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.”

Michelle Bachmann had a very strong performance and tied together the two frontrunners as Newt Romney: both similarly inconsistent in their conservative orthodoxy.

Newt wins hands down. The whole story line as I wrote earlier was whether Newt would walk off the stage without being bloodied. And he walked off the stage like Mohammed Ali without a scratch. And knocked Romney to the canvas by reminding the audience that Mitt Romney would be a career politician if he hadn’t lost to Ted Kennedy.

And voters will long remember and Mitt will long regret his bet that reminded everyone of a candidate who seems rich, elite, and out of touch.