The most tumultuous day of the campaign (see reasons one, two, and three) wrapped up tonight with a CNN debate, and the fireworks started immediately when moderator John King asked Newt Gingrich the first question—about his ex-wife's "open marriage" interview. After blasting the media's "vicious, negative" nature, Gingrich said he was "appalled" that CNN would open a debate with "trash" like that. "Every person in here knows personal pain (and) to take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine." He got a standing ovation, notes the Wall Street Journal, and his rivals declined to press the issue.
A few other highlights:
- Romney gets aggressive: He defended his Bain record in the strongest terms yet, notes Politico. "My view is capitalism works. Free enterprise works." He said he found it strange he was taking flak from "the people on this stage" before promising to make capitalism an issue with President Obama. "We're gonna stuff it down his throat."
- Rick Santorum, too: He accused Gingrich and Romney of "playing footsie with the left" on health care, notes USA Today. Later, he said Gingrich was great on "grandiosity" but terrible at actually getting things done. He also hit Ron Paul for being too soft on abortion.
- Romney on taxes: Asked whether he'd follow his dad's example and release years of returns, he responded, "Maybe," notes the New York Times. He reiterated that he would release his 2011 returns in April, adding, "I'm not going to apologize for being successful." Gingrich (who released his tonight) again pressed him on the issue.
- SOPA: Paul drew applause by noting he's been opposed from the get-go. Romney and Gingrich faulted the legislation as too intrusive, but Santorum (a longtime Internet target) quibbled: "The idea that anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from?"
- Paul: He joked a few times about being ignored, and the audience agreed. At one point, during discussion of abortion, the boos forced moderator King to call on him before turning to another subject.
- Gingrich one-liner: Referring to the health care provision that lets kids stay on their parents' coverage for 26 years: "Elect us and your kids will be able to move out because they’ll have work."