Endgame Analysis: Romney has to be happy. He came away unscathed. No one went after him in a confrontational manner.
The prevailing wisdom will be that Newt failed to attack, but Newt’s in a no win situation. If he attacks aggressively, he’s bad, angry Newt; if he doesn’t, people complain. Newt attacked in what I think was an effective manner — he cited the NY Times article and the upcoming mini-documentary on Bain, and the Wall Street Journal article on Romney’s “timid” economic plan. In other words, he made the attacks he wanted to make without making himself appear petty. This will not be the majority view, but I think it’s right. The nasty fight will be on the airwaves in South Carolina.
Santorum was good, but my sense is that he didn’t advance himself much. Clearly Romney, Newt and Santorum are the big three in the race.
Ron Paul fought with everyone, I don’t see this helping him. Rick Perry had good answers, but hardly was called on. Jon Huntsman is done.
Tweets and videos of night to follow.
At the third break – Not sure anyone won this segment. Romney, Newt and Santorum all were strong. Paul almost non-existent. Huntsman weak. Perry had a couple of good answers, but seems tangential.
At the second break – This round goes to Newt, who had the two big moments on Catholic adoption services being force to compromise faith or leave adoption services (which is what they did), and foreign policy on misguided policy as to Iran and energy independence as being crucial to putting pressure on Saudis to stop spreading Wahhabism.. Others did fine, but my sense is that this was a weaker segment for Santorum then the first. Much of the dialogue was “I agree with Newt.” To the extent Romney was not hurt, he also was a winner.
One of most bizarre questions was Stephanopolous trying to pin Romney down on whether states have right to ban contraception. Romney assumed Newt-like indignation at question. The moderators then went on to gay marriage, gay couples adopting children, etc. and wouldn’t leave it alone.
Newt then turned it around about Catholic charities being forced to stop adoption services. Huge crowd applause. How good was the answer? Both Ann Coulter and Jennifer Rubin praised it on Twitter.
At the first break – Winner so far is Romney who has stayed above the fray as Ron Paul argued with Santorum and then Newt. Some damage to Romney on Bain (see below) but not much. Newt not much of a presence, as moderators direct questions to others. Perry a couple of good answers, but again not getting many questions.
Romney’s tenure at Bain was big topic. Stephanopoulus brought out upcoming attack ads from pro-Newt SuperPAC. Newt said watch film and see if accurate, if it is, as NY Times has reported about at least one company, consider it. Said not enamored of raider style of investing. Bain raised by moderator without Newt having to bring it up.
Romney gave the 100,000 “net net” job creation at Bain. That will be interesting for a fact check, because Romney’s campaign previously said it was only jobs created.
One of the oddest moments was Ron Paul hitting Newt (but not Romney) on not serving. Surprisingly, even many Romney supporters on twitter found it funny that Paul said his racist 20 year old newsletters were ancient history but Newt not serving in the 1960s was relevent.
I’ll be giving my assessment at the breaks. I’m not going to try to catalog everything that is said.