Here are my final thoughts on tonight's Florida GOP Debate in Tampa which aired on NBC.
Rick Santorum - Unlike last Thursday's debate in Charleston, South Carolina, Santorum had a snark free debate. He reserved his criticisms for Newt and Romney for their support on individual mandates, cap & trade and Wall Street bailouts towards the end of the debate. However, both Newt and Romney ignored Santorum's criticisms. I've said it before and I'll say it again. He had a solid, unspectacular debate.
Mitt Romney - There were no awkward answers about when he was going to release his tax returns since he has announced he'll release them tomorrow. All Brian Williams could do was ask him if there were any surprises in there.
Romney most notably had Newt Gingrich on the defensive over his activities with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But otherwise he mostly stuck to the script and yet seemed to be going through the motions. Yet I suspect most of the post-debate will focus on his exchange with Newt which will help his cause.
Newt Gingrich - There were no standing ovations tonight. Romney had him on the defensive over his activities with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead of fighting back all he could say was check out my website or that it wasn't true.
After that, Gingrich had a solid debate. Unfortunately for Newt, the exchange with Romney is probably all anyone will remember from tonight's debate.
Of course, even if Newt had his A game he probably wouldn't have got a standing O. The debate audiences at NBC, CBS and ABC behave like they're at a tennis match. The audiences at Fox News and CNN are far more expressive and that works to Newt's advantage. A sedate audience like the one tonight at NBC doesn't play to Newt's strengths. I suspect Newt will fare better at Thursday night's debate which airs on CNN. What will also help him is that the debate is co-sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Network and Newt is perceived as more sympathetic to Hispanics than Romney.
Ron Paul - He was fine when talking about the federal reserve and the housing market. He's not so fine when he acts like a mouthpiece for Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Once again, the next debate is scheduled to take place on Thursday night in Jacksonville and will air on CNN at 8 p.m.
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