Who is this guy? And what have you done with Mitt Romney? That is the first thing that crossed our mind after watching last night’s debate.
Mitt Romney went on the offensive last night and displayed toughness and a tenacity that his supporters having been seeking for months. Romney went after Newt Gingrich on several topics. He took Newt’s best retorts in stride; and then went right back after him again. For the first time, Romney appeared comfortable in his own skin proud of his success. He seemed relaxed, yet eager to make his case.
Gingrich was off his game. He was obviously stunned by Romney’s aggressiveness. His performance was weak and lethargic. He would not even look Romney in the eye as Romney bored in. Most telling was the incident when Newt brought up Romney’s investments in the hated Freddie and Fannie. Romney calmly explained that his investments were handled by a blind trust so he did not know exactly where the investments were placed. He then turned to Newt and asked Newt if he was aware that he had investments in Freddie and Fannie as well. The surprised look on Newt’s face said that either he was unaware of his own investments in the housing monolith or that he had no inkling that Romney would bring it up. Romney was thoroughly prepared while it seemed that Newt was just winging it.
The big winner of the night was Rick Santorum; who gave his strongest performance yet. His lengthy and detailed explanation of Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan was strong; and it will cause Romney big problems against Obama should he win the nomination.
All in all, Gingrich had a bad week. He started the week on a high note coming off a big win in South Carolina. Infused with an additional $5 million in campaign donations; he planned to ride that positive wave to a huge victory in Florida. Instead he performed badly in the two debates while listening to one prominent conservative after another trash his candidacy. Ann Coulter, Elliot Abrams, Tom DeLay, Bob Dole and a host of other conservatives expressed their belief that a Gingrich nomination would doom the party in the general election. Perhaps this onslaught had an effect on his debate performance.
Gingrich and Romney were in a dead heat going into this debate. Romney was the clear winner. And South Carolina has taught us that debates do matter. But Gingrich has enough cash to make a difference between now and next Tuesday’s vote. And even if Gingrich loses he will still be right where he wants to be…the underdog pit bull, the media victim and the champion of all those wronged by the Washington/Manhattan elites.
The best news coming out of this debate…is that there isn’t another one until February 22nd.