This was by far the best debate for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. They both made effective use of the squabbling between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Gingrich seemed tired, unprepared, and off his game tonight -- bad timing for the former House speaker. Romney had some clunkers -- he got caught redhanded on the anti-Newt attack ad, the line about not making his own investments could come back to haunt him, and he denied being politically involved during a time period that included a Senate campaign -- but he had the better showing overall. I'm seeing many people argue that Gingrich has sharpened Romney as a candidate.
Gingrich uncharacteristically shied away from attacks on Romney and didn't confront Wolf Blitzer as well as John King or Juan Williams. Santorum did the best job going after Romneycare, but he also went after Gingrich's space program spending. Paul had some good laugh lines, especially on the age question and on sending politicians to the moon. Romney got the better of Gingrich in their immigration exchange, with the speaker making his criticism of the "Obama-level fantasy" of deportation a distinction without a meaningful difference.
This has been the most volatile race yet, with Romney looking like he had Florida in the bag, followed by Gingrich's post-South Carolina surge, and now Romney retaking the lead in many polls. It will be interesting to see if this debate, the last for some time, moves the polls at all.
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