[T]his hall tonight–packed to the rafters with DC think tank establishment types–ought to have been effortless Mitt territory, and it was not. The people in this hall know well, all too well, Gingrich’s manifold flaws and weaknesses. Yet they warmed to him, ready to receive him back, not because they trust him, but because he excites them. For the first time since Rick Perry’s abrupt puzzle, we can see the emergence of a genuine “establishment problem” for Romney–and that’s ominous for his hopes.
I think Newt has adjusted well to his nominal frontrunner status. In the context of a GOP primary debate tonight he’s been cool, dramatic in his own way but not over-the-top. He’s ratcheted back the angry retorts, which appear to have been key to his jump into the lead. But I think he’s done it in a way that may make him more palatable to a broader primary electorate without losing him what brought him to this point.
If Gingrich won, it's because he's such an unviable, nonthreatening candidate, the others didn't feel the need to attack him. Once they do, it will kill him.
Insofar as we can read Romney at all, he looked to be relishing the detour on immigration policy. Gingrich has no policy to apologize for, the way Perry did, but he ends up questioning whether it's "humane" to deport people who got to America then raised families. Again, not as bad as Perry, but something for Bachmann to dig into, something for Romney to take advantage of.
Gingrich’s amnesty answer will likely give his competitors the chance to crystallize the narrative that Gingrich isn’t a real conservative. Too bad. There are lots better reasons not to want Gingrich to be the Republican nominee or American President.
I still can’t see a President Gingrich. “People want substance!” No, Newt. They don’t know if they want Romney. Currently, you’re the alternate.
Mitt Romney, as in previous debates, was the best prepared and gave solid answers to all questions. But this time he had a worthy adversary in Newt Gingrich, who is clearly emboldened by his high polls numbers (and his own intellect). The thing to watch: Will Gingrich's "humane" stance on immigration be the issue Romney can use to knock him off?
Newt is winning this debate by virtue of being the first challenger to Mitt who didn’t throw it all away in his very next debate appearance.
Did anything change tonight? I don’t think so. The candidates did well, and generally reinforced the images they already had with the party’s base. When Mitt doesn’t lose, he wins. That is mostly what happened tonight, but I suspect that the partisans of pretty much every candidate were enthusiastic about tonight’s debate.
There was a fairly disturbing portion of the debate tonight where most of the GOP contenders for president supported monitoring Muslims closer than other citizens … it is just flat out bad security policy. There are four basic reasons, without getting into the serious first and second order effects, for this: It overloads and already stressed national security apparatus, serves as a distraction to the real problems, hinders cooperation between communities and law enforcement, and can serve terrorists' recruitment process.
[I]t's appalling that for the second time in a row, a foreign policy debate had no questions — not one — about Europe. The entire continent is on the verge of imploding, and possibly taking us down with them, and Wolf Blitzer doesn't care. And at the end, when the candidates got a freebie question to talk about any issue they felt wasn't getting enough attention, no mention of Europe again. It's just baffling.
Where was the serious discussion about the costs of war and peace (except from Ron Paul)? Nuclear weapons responsibilities and challenges? North Korea? Sudan? Piracy? The complications and challenges of the Arab Spring?