Solid Night for Romney, as Gingrich Emerges

Strong performance leaves Gingrich looking like top anti-Romney

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 17, 2012 5:35 AM CST | Updated Jan 17, 2012 7:45 AM CST

(Newser) – Mitt Romney emerged largely unscathed from last night's Republican debate in South Carolina, while consensus pegs Newt Gingrich as the best of the rest. A breakdown of the chatter:

  • This was Gingrich's "best debate of the entire race," decides Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. The former House Speaker "let ‘er rip tonight," he writes, winning applause from the boisterous audience for calling President Obama the "food stamp president" and for slamming "elites" and "liberals" who don't want to help poor people find good jobs.
  • Writing at Hot Air, AllahPundit agrees, citing Gingrich's bold responses to Juan Williams and Ron Paul among his shining moments. "I’m thinking he might have turned South Carolina from a solid Romney lead into a nailbiter. Has any candidate at any debate had the crowd more riled up than this?" (Watch videos at left.)

  • The candidates—and the audience—piled on Ron Paul over his foreign policy positions, notes Reid Epstein at Politico. The candidate was booed for, among other things, questioning whether the US had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden. Even Rick Perry suggested a gong to cut Paul off.
  • This wasn't Romney's finest debate, but he "avoided the sort of disastrous moment that would have jeopardized his apparent march toward the GOP presidential nomination," writes Brian Montopoli at CBS.
  • Maggie Haberman is a little less kind at Politico. "You could count on one hand the number of poor debates Romney has had ... last night was one of them ... and it served as a reminder that he has thin skin when attacked." He sounded "uncertain" about how to discuss Bain, or his tax returns—questions he should have anticipated. Lucky, then, that there's only one debate remaining before Saturday, she notes.

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich talk after the debate.   (Getty Images)
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Newt Gingrich tussles with Juan Williams.   (ka0LMt5ciRc)
Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich talk about the war on terror.   (Xxl2DYtW5rk)

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In the debate, Newt just may have attained the separation from Santorum that he so desperately needs. - Steve Kornacki, Salon

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