Endgame analysis:  No question Newt won, but no single huge moment that is likely to shift the polls dramatically (or fundamentally).  Just a consistent strong performance, that’s the pretty uniform assessment from relatively neutral people I’m following on Twitter.  Really bad night for Santorum, off message, harsh, just strange performance, a missed opportunity.  Good night for Romney, no gaffes, mostly strong.  Ron Paul was Ron Paul.

At the third break assessment:  Possibly best segment for Newt.  More of a presence.  Really bad segment for Santorum.  Romney not much of a presence.

On issue of Iran, the split was pretty obvious, 3-1.  Romney had a very strong answer about everything wrong with Obama Middle East policy, refusing to help those going against hostile regimes while helping those against our allies.  Santorum and Newt were good as well.

Santorum had an awkward moment on No Child Left Behind, basically said he went with the team.  Gave Paul an opening to jab him.

At the second break assessment:  Again, I don’t think it went well for Santorum.  Everyone (other than Newt) seemed to get under his skin.  He handle the contraception issue well, but Newt stole the show on that (see below).  If it’s a debate match between Santorum and Romney, Romney is winning, he seems to have the oppo research more at the ready.  Ed Morrissey:  Newt winning debate handily.

Newt scored when John King asked question to Romney about birth control, Newt intervened and pointed out that MSM never asked Obama about his vote for infanticide (voted against Born Alive Infant Protection Act as a state senator).

Newt on problem, while the others were arguing about “When you have government as the central provider of services U inevitably move towards tyranny.”

Romney used my point on Santorum’s endorsement of Arlen Specter resulting in Obamacare, but no h/t.

At the first break assessment:  Don’t think it was good for Santorum, he appeared agitated and off focus.  Romney was okay, but go into a lot of tit for tats with Santorum.  Newt was not much of a presence, but when he was brought in had the winning lines of the segment, the ones that will be replayed.  Ron Paul was affable, appeared to be having the most fun, particularly when prodding Santorum.

Santorum and Paul got into a bit of a tit for tat, mostly Paul prodding Santorum by standing behind an ad calling him “fake.”

Romney and Santorum were center stage both physically and in time for questions.  It actually got somewhat ugly as they argued over earmarks, line item veto, etc.   Don’t think it was good for either, although it put Santorum in the position of defending earmarks.  Newt actually had a good moment, in which he mocked Romney on earmarks: “”They got what you got, but you think what you got was right and what they got was wrong.”

Before the start:

I’ll give my assessments at the breaks and then at the end.

Seems like everyone has a lot to lose tonight.  Newt needs to reestablish himself, so he can lose by not winning.  Santorum needs to transition from the caricature being drawn in the press.  Romney has to avoid any more $10,000 gaffes or being rattled.

 
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