Romney Jabs Hard, but Debate Too Tame Local issues, quiet crowd make for dullish contest By Mark Russell, Newser Staff Posted Jan 24, 2012 3:16 AM CST 4 comments Comments Republican presidential candidates Rep. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich, during a break in a Republican presidential debate last night. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Newser) – Last night's GOP debate wasn't the most exciting of the primary process, with a focus on local Florida issues and an audience instructed to keep quiet. While newly combative Mitt Romney revved up the contest by attacking Newt Gingrich's lobbying for Freddie Mac and ethics as House speaker, Gingrich tried to tone down his act to be less of an attack dog and more of a statesman, reports Reuters. So who won the debate? Romney won by attacking Gingrich. "Well now, that’s a different Mitt, isn’t it?" notes Rob Dreher at the American Conservative. "Going after Gingrich hammer and tongs. All solid hits on his messy leadership of the House, and his Freddie Mac involvement." Gingrich needs a better defense. "The lobbying/influence peddling line of attacks from Romney cues new and old media for the next three days," writes Hugh Hewitt at the National Review. "What did he do, when did he do it, for whom, and for how much? $25,000 a month to be a historian isn’t going to fly..." Stop making sense. Two candidates win the "Stop Making Sense" tag, according to Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine—Ron Paul for his oversized suit (like the one David Byrne wore in the Stop Making Sense Talking Heads concert movie), and Romney for all of his answers after his opening attacks on Gingrich. Nobody won. If you watched, you lost, says the Washington Post. "Well, that was a terrible waste of an evening," wrote Alexandra Petri, who said a high point in the debate was Gingrich talking about cane sugar vs. beet sugar. The biggest loser: possibly NBC. "This debate was a historic mile marker on the road to obsolescence for network broadcast television," sniffs Terence P. Jeffrey at the National Review. And Rick Santorum blew a good chance to shine while Gingrich and Romney fought.