|CNN Florida GOP Debate (Linked to source CNN)|
The real winner of this debate? CNN and Wolf Blitzer. In spite of this being the umpteenth debate and viewers being completely tired of the same old questions, Blitzer managed to bring his A game and keep things lively.
And lively they were.
Newt Gingrich thought he could start off using his well-honed Saul Alinsky tactics, and hack Mitt Romney off at the knees and attack Blitzer at the same time. It took two seconds to see that the tables have turned. Romney came out swinging and didn't back down. And Blitzer didn't back down either. Gingrich was outplayed at his own game, and spent the entire night swinging wildly without connecting. Gingrich insulted and jabbed, then looked to the audience for affirmation. But affirmation didn't come. Instead Blitzer reminded Gingrich that he's tried these attacks before, and how about trying to say these things to Romney's face.
Turns out Gingrich is all bark and little bite.
The crowd turned on Gingrich. They laughed. They jeered. And stood and cheered for Romney as he put Gingrich back in his place.
But Romney wasn't safe either. Blitzer played fair and launched into a Romney tax question designed to put him in the hot seat. Romney took it, flipped it, and made it about Gingrich.
The nailbiting moment of the night was when Gingrich accused Romney of investing in Fannie and Freddie. (Which begs the question, which is more condemnable- consulting for millions in fees for them? Or investing in them like millions of Americans have done?)
But! Romney shocked us all by sharing that Gingrich too had invested in them. The look on Gingrich's face was priceless. You could almost see the steam coming from his ears. Bested at his own game.
Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were nearly invisible for the first twenty minutes, with the exception of a very touching moment at the opening when Santorum introduced his "date" for the night- his 90 year old mother in the audience. The crowd didn't hold back in giving her the applause she deserved. Whether or not you plan to vote for him, you have to admit, she has raised a very good man.
Truth is, Santorum had his best night yet. Romney came off the winner, soundly pounding Gingrich into the ground. But my prediction is that we don't see Gingrich fence-sitters run to Romney. It is Santorum that will gain new supporters this week, demobilizing the Gingrich base.
Romney and Gingrich quite frankly sparred and insulted like jilted ex-wives, but Romney didn't lose his cool. The same cannot be said for Gingrich. Additionally, Romney finally gave a strong answer on his wealth with a testimonial of capitalism and self-made men. And the crowd loved it all.
Santorum did knock Romney down a peg or two on Romneycare. He made excellent points and proved himself to be stronger and knowledgeable than he usually does in debates.
Ron Paul knows he has nothing to gain in Florida. It is a winner take all state, and he's in fourth place. He didn't waste his energy pandering to pork-barrel ideas, or making empty promises. (A colony on the moon, Newt? Really? In this economy, and with all of the problems around the world, and you want to pander to the Space Coast with a moon colony??) Instead he served mostly as the comic relief for the night, which was very welcome between the intense sparring moments. As usual he had a few completely left field moments about foreign policy that failed to connect, but really, he had a good night.
Now we just sit back and wait for the poll numbers to roll in. Can Romney hold on to his lead until the actual vote on Tuesday? Will Santorum be a real threat? Will any one of them suddenly produce new dirt at the last minute that destroys the competition (again)?
There was a lot of discussion and confusion on Twitter regarding Romney's possible blind trust that invested in Fannie and Freddie. During the debate he claimed that any investments he may have made in them were done by a blind trust, and therefore out of his control. However, by the end of the debate Twitter was alight with the news that this may not be true. Look for this to possibly turn into a news story if Romney was wrong. However, is it really that bad? Find just one home-owning American with a mutual fund that hasn't had some involvement with Fannie and Freddie. There's at least one American who made over a million dollars consulting for them!