CNN handed the debate to Newt Gingrich on the opening question about his ex-wife’s allegations. With an economy in the toilet, millions out of work, a debt that is out of control and so many other issues facing us, CNN decided that the old allegations dredged back up by ABC were the top issue to debate about. Newt hit back hard and brought even more cheers than he did in the last debate. The audience was with him regardless of who they had originally come in supporting and that is all he needed to roll up another debate win and very likely a win on Saturday as well. It was a massive media gaffe, the likes of which the GOP can only hope to have in a debate against Obama in October.
Beyond the wild start, the debate was mainly between Romney and Gingrich with Santorum shoehorning his way in whenever he could find a chance. At one point, Ron Paul even had to tell him that he wasn’t referring to him in an answer and “I think you’re too sensitive.” Speaking of Ron Paul, he continued to lose out in the debate format by only occasionally being asked a question while the ‘chance to respond’ rule mainly kept the entire debate between the other three who kept attacking each other. At one point the audience actually booed and demanded the moderator let Ron Paul answer a question when he was about to be skipped over yet again. They ought to bring out an easy chair for Paul to relax in during the 20 or so minutes he has to wait before getting a chance to speak.
Santorum is showing no signs of dropping out and has only stepped up his attacks against Gingrich. He feels that he beat Gingrich twice and deserves to be the one conservative candidate. On that measure, he has a point. The problem with Rick is that he always sounds like a whining spoiled child arguing with his parents. Even when he is making really good points, he is about as unlikable as Romney. You have to give him credit for not caring what others think and being willing to stand by his convictions. Unfortunately, his convictions don’t line up well with the majority of Americans when weighed across all issues. America may be generally more conservative than it is liberal on key issues, it isn’t in favor of government meddling in the internet, the bedroom and a number of other places Santorum thinks are fair game for federal agents to dictate.
Romney had one of his best performances. He tried to channel a little Newt-ness with a couple quick one word answers – particularly when asked if he would follow the example of his father and release a dozen years of tax returns. Unfortunately for Mitt, he doesn’t play the part of jokester well. Those failed attempts to have a personality aside, he did a far better job articulating his positions than he has in the past few debates. He managed nearly whole audience support several times, although he did get heckled once. All in all, Romney seems to have refound his footing and should be able to prevent any further backslide in support for awhile. He may have to accept the fact that he isn’t going to win South Carolina and the nomination isn’t going to be easy to obtain.
No one collapsed in the debate. In fact, all four candidates turned in better performances they they had previously. The lines are becoming more clearly drawn. That makes Ron Paul the real loser of the debate as his inability to clearly articulate his ideas seems worse than it did when Perry was around doing an even worse job. If Paul can’t find a way to make salient points without drifting off-point constantly, he’s going to see his percentage of support drop over the next several contests as undecided voters don’t connect with him.
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