Downer debate denouement winner: Newt

posted at 8:40 am on February 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Perhaps it’s fitting that the last debate of the season — we all hope and pray — ended up in the hands of the one candidate who mastered the format during the entire cycle.  Newt Gingrich learned his lesson in Florida that his formula for debates was what worked, and that means staying positive, remaining “cheerful” rather than angry, and attacking only Barack Obama and the media.  That formula allowed Gingrich to mostly steer clear of the internecine arguments that cropped up between Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul, while speaking at length to the little in substance that actually came up at the depressingly repetitive debate.

That’s the trouble with holding 20 debates; they tend to look like repeats.  The only topic of actual substance for the 2012 cycle that got discussed at any length was Iran, and it was a replay of the 15 or so arguments between Ron Paul and everyone else.  Otherwise, the debate mainly focused on what everyone else has said about each other, and who voted for what in 1992 or 2001 or 2006. No one discussed Fast and Furious, no mention was made of Solyndra or LightSquared as examples of corruption in the current administration.  Bare mention was made of anyone’s economic plans.

Some of the review was rather fresh, though, since this was Rick Santorum’s first debate as a solid frontrunner.  Unfortunately Santorum seemed almost overprepared for the fight.  Instead of providing a brief response and refocusing attention on current issues like the economy, Santorum kept explaining, and explaining, and explaining, and added an apology or two along the way.  There is an axiom in politics: Explaining is not winning.  Save the explanations for your web page, not for debates.  Santorum came across as measured, honest, and open, but ended up sounding defensive almost all night long.

Mitt Romney didn’t do much better.  While he scored points against Santorum, he had to twist himself in knots to do it.  Santorum pointed out, for instance, that while Romney attacked him on earmarks as wasteful spending, Romney balanced his RomneyCare budget on the backs of federal taxpayers to the tune of $400 million, and that Romney certainly liked earmarks enough to ask Congress for a few during his Olympics rescue.  This led to the odd e-mail moment when I received simultaneously a message from Team Mitt blasting Santorum over earmarks and another praising Romney for his rescue of the Olympics, which was only possible through Congressional intervention Mitt was busily condemning at the moment I received it.  It fell to Gingrich, though, to concisely slap Romney by noting that his position seemed to be that Romney opposed earmarks he didn’t like but supported the earmarks that he himself got. Romney never got around to discussing his new tax plan in any detail (about which I’ll be writing later today), and ended up on the defensive himself a few times, especially on RomneyCare.  He seemed almost desperate to get into a fight with Santorum all night long, and desperation is as much a political aphrodisiac as explaining is.

Ron Paul joined in the attack on Santorum, which prompted Santorum to imply that Paul and Romney are colluding to some degree:

Rick Santorum suspects something is up between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.  Santorum had a tough night at the 20th, and likely last, Republican debate, held here at the Mesa Arts Center. He took a lot of attacks from Romney and a few from Paul, and he noticed that Paul and Romney didn’t seem to go after each other.  When it was all over, and Santorum met reporters, he didn’t try to hide what he was thinking.

“You have to ask Congressman Paul and Gov. Romney what they’ve got going together,” Santorum said.  “Their commercials look a lot alike, and so do their attacks.”

“They’ve got something going on?” a reporter asked Santorum.

“You tell me,” Santorum said.

Er … no.  Paul was simply Paul last night, attacking Santorum on all of the normal issues on which Paul would attack.  There are two facts to keep in mind.  First, Santorum got the brunt of the attacks because Santorum is the front runner.  He also ended up with the most air time last night for the same reason.  Second, it was Santorum who attacked Paul a lot in the earlier debates over Paul’s position on Iran, and who scored a lot of points on those attacks, showing Paul to be on the fringe when it comes to foreign policy.  Last night was Paul’s chance for some payback, and it doesn’t take collusion to explain what happened in the debate.

Does this debate move the needle for anyone?  I doubt it.  Gingrich had a very good debate but not a real gamechanger, and his position in the polling has dropped so low nearly everywhere that he’d practically need the other three men on stage to declare themselves Kennedy Democrats in order to get out of that hole.  Santorum may have rattled the confidence of some new supporters and give undecideds less reason to join his column, but it wasn’t a terrible performance such as Rick Perry’s debates in September and October, and Santorum did have some good moments as well.  Romney spent the night attacking his opponents (mainly Santorum but also Gingrich on a couple of occasions) rather than talking about himself, which is exactly the complaint that Republican voters have had about his entire campaign.  His line, “I don’t mean to be critical,” was a laugh line for all the wrong reasons, and it encapsulates Romney’s insincerity about his campaign style in six easy words.

All in all, this was a depressing and mostly useless debate.  Byron York sums it up well:

After all the recent controversy, who would have bet that the topic of contraception would not come up until well into the debate, that Santorum would answer it with restraint and grace, and that Romney would immediately adopt Santorum’s position as his own?  It wasn’t at all likely, but it happened.  And it was one of the best moments in a debate that had very few really good moments.

Let’s hope it’s the last of the debate moments, too.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

I stopped listening to Rush a while ago. He’s never backed the strongest fiscal conservative–not in 2008, not now. Far from opposing the establishment, Rush is the establishment. Santorum in fact is Washington D.C. personified–a Bush stalwart who paid little attention to the balance sheets when pursuing an agenda of do-goodism not unlike the Democrats. He’s all about social issues and little else. And Rush is fine with him.

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Rush hasn’t said who he is backing, and he doesn’t have any better choice to pick from than the rest of us do. He does, however, believe it is appropriate to discuss social issues in this election, and I agree with him. It is about time after a fifty year barrage from the left has turned this country into a moral cesspool.

silvernana on February 23, 2012 at 1:57 PM

How about because Newty has zero chance of beating ObaMao in the general. That’s a great reason, imo. Most of us aren’t that interested in a lunar colony right now.

cicerone on February 23, 2012 at 1:28 PM

“Newty” has as much if not more chance of unseating ObaMao in the general as any other Republican. Just wait until philosophical differences are brought to light in the general. ObaMao will squash Romney when he tries to do this, “Newty” will squash ObaMao like a bug with it.

And maybe, one of the things that all Americans should be interested in is America having a pre-eminent role in space. Unlike ObaMao who diminished America by making it so we can’t get anyone into space, Newt at least looks forward to America being great again. I would think that you might want America to be great again, no? But you are so naive thinking that a lunar colony is high on Newt’s immediate priorities. I applaud him for having the vision to mention something like that at all.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Ed, this wasn’t what I saw in the debate. Your opinion is getting colored by your endorsement of Santorum a bit I think.

Santorum had a horrible night, the worst by far of all the candidates. He was on the defensive, got booed numerous times, and rambled and apologized throughout the night.

Newt had a good night, but his open marriage and Good Newt/Bad Newt routine ruined his chances before he even started.

Romney had a great night, helped by a friendly crowd. Remember Newt wanted audience participation so bad because of what happened in SC? Romney reaped some major benefits from that, and he is almost as polished as Newt in debates.

Paul had a good night, and he clobbered Santorum. This was buffeted by the fact that most think he won’t ever gain a majority.

scotash on February 23, 2012 at 2:05 PM

after paul, my favorite is newt. I know he is a 2 faced politician, but, I find his ambitious plans and goals for america attractive.

nathor on February 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

I am with you on that assessment. Newt may be a scumbag just like the rest of them, but at least he doesn’t deny it. You gotta respect that in a politician! :-)

landowner on February 23, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Mitt Romney didn’t do much better. While he scored points against Santorum, he had to twist himself in knots to do it.

One thing I don’t like about Romney, I mean other than he is a raging RINO, is that when he is answering a question he doesn’t like, he looks like a train that is about to derail. Or a crazed deer-in-the-headlights. Not very confidence-building.

Sterling Holobyte on February 23, 2012 at 2:32 PM

It is about time after a fifty year barrage from the left has turned this country into a moral cesspool.

silvernana on February 23, 2012 at 1:57 PM

The American public in 2012 isn’t looking to solve the unwed mother problem. It’s looking to solve our fiscal problems. Carter and Bush were born again–and they each made a mess of the economy. It’s time we turned to a leader who knows what he’s doing. We should have done that with Rudy in 2008. Let’s not make the same mistake twice by rejecting Romney.

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 2:43 PM

Am I the only one who thinks that RINO Romney (aka Obama-Lite) looks and sounds like the RNC’s lead attack bitch (you know kinda like DWS for the DummycRATs)?? The more I hear Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name), the more he sounds like the (R) version of DWS (Dumb, White, and STUPID)!! It’s the same grating noise like Obastard makes every time he speaks. God forbid, we should get four years of having to listen to this very irritating man!?! Hey STUPID Party!?! How ’bout nominating a REAL conservative, not some faux RepublicRAT!?!

Colatteral Damage on February 23, 2012 at 3:25 PM

The American public in 2012 isn’t looking to solve the unwed mother problem. It’s looking to solve our fiscal problems. Carter and Bush were born again–and they each made a mess of the economy. It’s time we turned to a leader who knows what he’s doing. We should have done that with Rudy in 2008. Let’s not make the same mistake twice by rejecting Romney Newt.

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 2:43 PM

FIFY

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Am I the only one who thinks that RINO Romney (aka Obama-Lite) looks and sounds like the RNC’s lead attack bitch (you know kinda like DWS for the DummycRATs)?? The more I hear Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name), the more he sounds like the (R) version of DWS (Dumb, White, and STUPID)!! It’s the same grating noise like Obastard makes every time he speaks. God forbid, we should get four years of having to listen to this very irritating man!?! Hey STUPID Party!?! How ’bout nominating a REAL conservative, not some faux RepublicRAT!?!

Colatteral Damage on February 23, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Your Romney hate is what makes no sense. He actually is more conservative than any of his opponents–certainly more than big- government Santorum or sometimes-far-left Gingrich–if you’d be willing to listen to what he says with more than a closed mind. His record is fairly impressive–both as a successful businessman and as governor of a major state. For all his faults, he’d still make a better president than the other two–and far better than Obama.

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM

I don’t give a crap about the IRS. His sanction and the $300k penalty was because he lied to the committee. The IRS investigation could only have added more charges. The reason they (committee) did not give him a pass is because his behavior was an established pattern that reflected badly on the house. It reeked of corruption.

I do care that he is a serial liar and adulterer. It goes to character.

We don’t need a megalomaniac who is prone to frequent meltdowns with his finger on the trigger.

csdeven on February 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM

I don’t give a crap about the IRS. His sanction and the $300k penalty was because he lied to the committee. The IRS investigation could only have added more charges. The reason they (committee) did not give him a pass is because his behavior was an established pattern that reflected badly on the house. It reeked of corruption.

I do care that he is a serial liar and adulterer. It goes to character.

We don’t need a megalomaniac who is prone to frequent meltdowns with his finger on the trigger.

csdeven on February 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM

csdeven, do not try to rewrite history. Newt paid a $300k fee (not penalty)to close a painful chapter in congressional history. They said he lied, he proved he didn’t lie, but they refused to honor his proof. The reason the House committee did not give him a pass is because there were highly partisan participants who were out for blood. Newt did not lie Have you ever really looked at a complex tax return and noticed a very insignificant, small potatoes error? Thought not. Not only did Newt not lie, he told the absolute, unvarnished truth, as later proven by the IRS. I am probably a bit older than you and can remember the goings on of this House Committee quite clearly. I sensed at the time that it was backstabbing bullshi*, and I have been proven correct.

And what is this bs you’re talking about “serial liar”? I cannot recall lies that Newt told. And as far as serial adulterer, I have no desire to marry the guy so he will never cheat on me. Grow up. Obozo has never cheated on Moochelle, so I guess that means you wholeheartedly approve of him being in office.

You seem to be able to bash Newt for petty, gossipy stuff. Can you bash him for his policy ideas? Probably not.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Erratic behavior? You know, sometimes genius is like that. What matters are results, and you cannot deny that Newt has had some very impressive legislative results. And I would rather have a somtime erratic thought out of Newt than the lying dirt that comes out of Romney. If the only way he thinks he can win the nomination is to falsely trash his opponents, that makes him no better than what’s in the white house right now.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM
I don’t think Newt exhibits erratic behavior. He is a visionary.
He thinks large; he is way ahead of the rest of us. I like the
fact that he thinks the United States and its citizens can do
anything. He doesn’t think our best days are behind us.

Amjean on February 23, 2012 at 4:43 PM

csdeven, do not try to rewrite history. Newt paid a $300k fee (not penalty)to close a painful chapter in congressional history. They said he lied, he proved he didn’t lie, but they refused to honor his proof. The reason the House committee did not give him a pass is because there were highly partisan participants who were out for blood. Newt did not lie Have you ever really looked at a complex tax return and noticed a very insignificant, small potatoes error? Thought not. Not only did Newt not lie, he told the absolute, unvarnished truth, as later proven by the IRS. I am probably a bit older than you and can remember the goings on of this House Committee quite clearly. I sensed at the time that it was backstabbing bullshi*, and I have been proven correct.

And what is this bs you’re talking about “serial liar”? I cannot recall lies that Newt told. And as far as serial adulterer, I have no desire to marry the guy so he will never cheat on me. Grow up. Obozo has never cheated on Moochelle, so I guess that means you wholeheartedly approve of him being in office.

You seem to be able to bash Newt for petty, gossipy stuff. Can you bash him for his policy ideas? Probably not.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Kudos to you for posting the truth about Newt. As for
csdeven, he/she is on this site 24/7 posting nonsense for the
most part. Few agree with her/his point of view except for the few whack jobs who have kinship with her/him.

Amjean on February 23, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Santorum looked like the consummate Washington insider. He hardly looked Presidential. His reply that he has to play along to get along was telling. Paul justifiably held his feet to the fire. If you are trumpeting day and night that you are consistent values candidate in the race you don’t say that you flushed your values down the toilet in order to play some Washington insider political game. He looked like and sounded like the petty pol he is. Reminds me of Bubba.

And, after haranguing Romney about being a flipflopper on social issues this little gem shows up: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=_t4cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3GMEAAAAIBAJ&dq=santorum+progressive&pg=6015%2C5485825 How does Santorum try to weasel out of this? By ‘fighting for’ X or ‘standing up to’ Y to make up for it. Romney has clearly explained his past social issue inconsistencies. He, as far as I can tell, never lied about them.

MadJayhawk on February 23, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Romney has clearly explained his past social issue inconsistencies. He, as far as I can tell, never lied about them.

MadJayhawk on February 23, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Yeah, he says he is severely conservative. Sure, I believe that, sure.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Your Romney hate is what makes no sense. He actually is more conservative than any of his opponents

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Of course he is. He told us that he is “severely conservative”. I severely do not believe him, because he has severely proven that he is not conservative. Is that too severe?

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Ed, this should not be the last debate. Yes, Newt won the debate last night and came across as the serious, knowledgeable and experienced adult who remembered to go after Obama. But that is all the more reason why there should be moere debates as had been planned.

Phil Byler on February 23, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Everyone has probably seen this but with constant harping on Romneycare that some like to point out is Romney’s biggest fault maybe we should look at this again and see what the differences are between Romneycare and Obamacare:

http://americaneedsmitt.com/blog/obamacare-romneycare-truth/

Romney vetoed 8 parts of the Romneycare bill. The Democratic legislature overrode those vetoes.

Romney vetoed 800 bills in MA. 707 of those vetoes were overridden by the Democratic legislature. Romney is not a ‘Team Player’ when it comes to his sense of what is right for his state.

MadJayhawk on February 23, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Santorum criticized Romney for getting earmarks for increased security at the 2002 Olympics due to 9-11.

What Santorum doesn’t tell us is that he voted for those earmarks.

HR 2216, HR 3338, and HR 4425. Ron Paul voted against them.

MadJayhawk on February 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Ed, this should not be the last debate. Yes, Newt won the debate last night and came across as the serious, knowledgeable and experienced adult who remembered to go after Obama. But that is all the more reason why there should be moere debates as had been planned.

With his campaign heading down the tubes, Newt definitely needs more free air time. Fox is cutting him down to 8 hours a day.

MadJayhawk on February 23, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Let’s not make the same mistake twice by rejecting Romney Newt Rick.

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 2:43 PM

FIFY

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 3:28 PM

FIFY

Myron Falwell on February 23, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Your Romney hate is what makes no sense. He actually is more conservative than any of his opponents

writeblock on February 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Ladies and Germs, the MittBot Democrat sockpuppet Quote of The Day.

Myron Falwell on February 23, 2012 at 5:51 PM

Of course he is. He told us that he is “severely conservative”. I severely do not believe him, because he has severely proven that he is not conservative. Is that too severe?

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 5:05 PM

The only thing “severe” about Mitt will be the margin of defeat he will suffer to Obama in the November elections. Oh, it will be severe, all right.

If you want four more years of Obama, feel free to vote Romney/Snowe 2012.

Myron Falwell on February 23, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Hey writeblock, looks like you have a mental block as well. You sound just like a DummycRAT who really, really wants RINO Romney (aka Obama-Lite) so their various minions can beat Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name, even kinda looks like him) like a rented mule: Axelrod and the MSM with endless stories about Racism/Cultism in Mormonisn, the EVIL Soros and his OWS and Media Matters jerks with Willard being the quintescential 1%er, and all Obastard has to do is just put his hand on Willard’s shoulder, and simply say “Thank You For RomneyCare!” GAME OVER!?! Rino Romney should be down by 15 points even before he makes his acceptance speech!?!

Colatteral Damage on February 23, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Myron Falwell on February 23, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Your FIFY’s are so boring and tiresome. It’s something you’d expect from a junior highschooler. The worst part is you do them over, and over, and over. They’re not even clever. At least try to come up with an original response.

bluegill on February 23, 2012 at 6:37 PM

This is for Ric who is wondering about $583 million dollars that MA used to start up the health reform, to subsidize private insurance for low income people. Ric I am sorry if I offended you and you are a relative of Jane Swift’s or think I don’t like the Berkshires. Duval has a nice million dollar place there. But as they say in MA, you can’t get there from here. I do not live in 128, i live where the non beautiful people live in little hovels in Scott Brown/Ross area.

1. You can read Wikipedia on this, because it is pretty good, facts in prose, not factoids, which i know upset you.

2. http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/on-the-record/2012/02/19/how-you-taxpayer-paid-romneycare

Greta just did this interview with Tommy Thompson. The Waiver that Kennedy got, was not new money, it was to use money already paying for health care in MA, the original funding was to pay hospital bills of people who did not buy insurance, for some reason we cannot get the money out of people once they leave the hospital, go figure. That money was used instead to help buy a private insurance plan for people instead of only paying for one hospital visit with it.

22 states were in this program, the $583 million was money they saved up to do this by not spending it on the old program. This was not a Ted Kennedy Earmark.

Fleuries on February 23, 2012 at 7:47 PM

They said he lied, he proved he didn’t lie, but they refused to honor his proof.

NOMOBO on February 23, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Bwhahahahaha!!! They already had his admission to lying! hahahahaha!!!!

csdeven on February 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Bwhahahahaha!!! They already had his admission to lying! hahahahaha!!!!

csdeven on February 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM

csdeven,
Would you please stop rewriting the history of that congressional investigation. It’s getting very annoying to refute your lies time and again.

Newt did NOT admit to lying. He admitted to not knowing that his accountant made an honest mistake, that actually turned out to be not a mistake at all. Your revisionism shows your abject lack of knowledge of the entire situation, which seriously calls into question your assessment of Newt Gingrich.

I urge you to get a life and find out exactly what happened in that congressional hearing. In the meantime, stop trying to spread lies.
Please do not speak to a subject about which you know nothing. It makes you look pathetic.

NOMOBO on February 24, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4