Romney and Perry are doing each other and themselves damage by going at it in the way they have been, which at times seems childish, petty and insincere, which has even such mainstream commentators as John Podhoretz (A Pack of Nonsense) and Scott Johnson (Send in the Clowns) begging them to get serious.

I still think this all benefits Newt more than anyone, the experienced adult in the room who is staying above the fray, refusing to be drawn in, and focusing on Obama as a way of setting himself apart from the GOP crowd.

The “Lincoln-Douglass” style debate on November 5 should set Gingrich and Cain even further apart from the rest, but more important for Gingrich, it gives him the chance to eclipse Cain as the best not-Romney:

Herman Cain is a terrific guy. He is a great talent. He has a terrific career. He has a good story to tell. He has some ideas I don’t agree with, but they’re big ideas – ‘999’ is a big idea.

I’m in New Hampshire, where there is no sales tax. And I think the idea of a federal sales tax is not going to go over very well up here. But, nonetheless, it’s serious. I don’t have a goal of knocking anybody out. I have a goal of trying to attract people to look at big ideas and big solutions, look at a real track record, and over time, simply outgrow my friends, none of whom are my major opponent.

In my mind, my major opponent is Barack Obama. And all these guys are friends of mine. They’re are smart people. And there is something you can learn from every single one of them. And Herman and I are going to have a great time in Houston on November 5, where they’re having a dialogue about entitlement reform based on Paul Ryan’s work.

And I think people are going to find this surprisingly interesting and educational, but not necessarily hostile.