Tonight in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich began hitting them out of the park. Answering questions from Juan Williams on poverty, jobs for poor kids, Obama as the food stamp president… this was the Newt Gingrich so many missed when he was smacking back at Romney by going after Bain Capital.
Between this, the exchange with Ron Paul on Bin Laden, and the zinger about 99 weeks being an associate degree, I’m thinking he might have turned South Carolina from a solid Romney lead into a nailbiter. Has any candidate at any debate had the crowd more riled up than this?
Rod Dreher is more reality-based:
There goes Gingrich with the food stamp thing again, blaming Obama for "putting more people on food stamps than any president in American history." It wasn’t Obama that did it, Gingrich, it was the depression recession. This is food we’re talking about. This is people struggling to feed their families in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And Gingrich is playing racial and cultural politics with it. To listen to Gingrich, you’d think that Obama signed up all those layabouts for food stamps just so he could throw government money at them.
Josh Marshall feels the base was eating out of the palm of Gingrich's hand:
Newt's really on fire tonight. Really not sure that it's going to matter much. But he's back into that mode of serving up perfect red meat for the Republican primary electorate.
Will Wilkinson thinks Mitt had a bad night:
This was Romney's worst debate. He was often flummoxed and seemed incredibly greasy, even for him, in his wriggling answer about disclosing his income taxes. His attempt to pin Bain's creative destruction on insidious Chinese trade practices was pathetic.
So does Pete Spiliakos:
The low point was when Santorum asked Romney if Romney believed that felons who had completed their sentence should be allowed to vote. Romney froze and tried to change the subject since apparently Romney didn’t know what he was supposed to pretend to believe.
Taegan Goddard focuses on Mitt's tax return answer:
The most interesting moment of the debate was Romney's reluctant statement that he would release his tax returns around the April 15th deadline. It's very possible the issue of his effective tax rate will be an even bigger in the general election than his record as head of Bain Capital.
Dave Weigel adds important details:
No, you cannot diagram what Romney actually said about his tax returns. He will release them in April, because "he's heard" that it's in line with what people seem to want. And sure, releasing them in April would probably prevent them from coming out until the primary was wrapped up.
Matt Welch takes Mitt to task for non-answers:
You know, I go on TV sometimes. I am asked questions. Sometimes you slip off the hook a bit so you can use the very small window to make the point you want to make instead of giving a literal answer. I mention this because OH MY GOD DOES MITT ROMNEY NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS. He's got the wriggle-on-your-record-and-turn-it-back-to-Obama thing down PAT. It's totally offensive, and yet it's like America is just too weary to care.
And P.M. Carpenter can hardly believe that Romney is the favorite:
Unlike some of his earlier appearances in previous grillings and third-degrees, his demeanor is utterly imperturbable; there stands a man who knows he's getting away with a magnificent fraud — himself.