Romney Rises

The former speaker looked tired, as 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.

This was the best debate performance–from beginning to end–Mitt Romney has had of the 19-or-so we’ve been treated to. Even after being caught flat-footed over an ad that chastised Gingrich for saying Spanish is the language of the ghetto (Romney didn’t know it was his ad, even though it contained the required disclaimer “I approved this message”), he didn’t let it throw him. Like a boxer having a really good bout, he slipped punches, used the whole ring, jabbed well, and threw good straight rights when he saw the opening.

Rick Santorum is a very, very good debater and he was again tonight. He alone landed a punch on Romney when he continued to press the governor on Romneycare. I thought he carried it a little too long and began slip into Petulant Rick mode, but he tied Romney for the best night.

Ron Paul is fun to have onstage because he never varies his message, and because he has nothing to lose, is free to say whatever he wants. He is not doing well in the polling in Florida, but has promised to concentrate on the caucus states so we’ll see how he does in Nevada. He didn’t change any votes tonight, but he added texture to the discussion.