Huntsman Gingrich debate wrap.

If you missed the live web feed of the two person debate in New Hampshire, you missed a good one. (Fortunately for you they will be replaying it on C-SPAN at 8 PM eastern.) We had a very lively discussion going on during the debate here at Hot Air, but I assure you it will be worth your time to watch the replay.

The format was, as promised, a rather casual, two person discussion on weighty topics of the day. The moderator simply provided general topics – almost entirely on foreign policy – and gave both Speaker Gingrich and Governor Huntsman ample time to explore each one in depth. There was no sniping and no “gotcha moments,” as Newt noted in his closing. The discussion points were important and both men demonstrated a remarkable depth of knowledge on matters from Afghanistan / Pakistan to Israel / Iran to China. (I’ll have a few highlights below.)

While the topics were important and handled in a scholarly way, that’s not to say that there wasn’t some subtle politicking going on, some of which became decidedly less subtle during the post-debate glad handing. I did a hit on the Jeff Kropf show in Oregon this morning and told him that this was almost a win-win for Gingrich. It was a two person event with a candidate who is essentially off the radar, but is also frequently viewed as an “establishment GOP” kind of guy who has been effectively living in New Hampshire for months. If Newt could succeed in making Huntsman look really attractive, he might bump his numbers up a bit, hopefully undercutting Romney in the only state where he’s still clinging to a lead.

To put it mildly, that portion was a success. They stayed pretty much entirely in Huntsman’s wheelhouse for the entire affair, and aside from his well formed opinions on getting out of Afghanistan sooner than the rest of the candidates, the former Utah Governor came off looking like one of the most intelligent, experienced people running for office. Whether that works to Newt’s favor in whittling away at Romney’s lead remains to be seen in the next few weeks.

Newt also put on a professorial show, demonstrating the knowledge he’s picked up and retained over decades of foreign policy work. He picked apart the various issues in great depth. The only somewhat controversial position he took was on the subject of Iran. He said that the next president would likely be put in a position to choose between assisting Israel in a ground war against Iran or standing by as nukes were unleashed from one side or the other (if not both) which could result in a “second holocaust” for the Jewish people. That one will probably be getting some play in the media in coming days.

A few other choice tidbits of note…

On the subject of China, Newt said, “If we’re to be domestically stupid, it’s impractical to ask the Chinese to be just as stupid.” That one got a lively response.

During his closing remarks, Gingrich was pointing out how important it was for the public to see meaningful, in-depth discussions of the policy matters which will shape the future. “This is not a reality show. This is reality.” Some of us were wondering if that was a subtle dig at Donald Trump, but that wouldn’t make much sense since he’ll be doing Trump’s debate this month. Either way, it was a great line.

As they were wrapping up, the moderator was joking with both of the candidates and the subject of doing a two person format with Mitt Romney came up. He said, “I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars he doesn’t show up.”

New responded with. “You just showed who the real loser of this debate was.”

All in all, I very highly recommend you catch the replay of this on C-SPAN tonight. It was informative, productive and provided valuable information to everyone considering their choices in the coming election. I wish we could have more meetings like this pairing up the various candidates still in contention.

Additional Note: By the time it was over, Huntsman had challenged Romney to a similar format debate in New Hampshire. Let’s see if he accepts.

Of course, it also gave Newt a chance to once again point out that, if nominated, he would challenge Barack Obama to a series of seven of these types of meetings, three hours in length each.

For a moment, Newt Gingrich succeeded in making me feel sorry for President Obama.