Endgame assessment: It’s almost like there were two debates. Early on Romney scored points against Newt on Freddie Mac and the “wealth issue,” and Santorum scored major points against Romney on Romneycare.  The first half of the debate was not strong for Newt, although I think the talk of the space program probably helped him in Florida even if it hurt him with the pundits.

The second half of the debate was much more sedate.  I’m not sure there were any highlights, except for Romney deferring to Newt on Reagan and Newt getting to solidify his Reagan narrative.  Given how quickly Romney folded on the issue, this has to help Newt as Romney’s campaign and supporters continue their attacks on Newt’s Reagan connection.  Newt was able to drive this home in his closing — a big election with big choices, paycheck over foodstamps, etc.

If Newt needed a big moment, he didn’t get it.  Romney was strong in the start, weaker as the night went on.  Ron Paul was good throughout.  I’d declare Santorum the winner, but I don’t think he’ll take votes from Newt or Romney.

At the third break:

On Reagan, Newt mentioned the video I ran of Nancy Reagan praising him! (but didn’t mention me).  Lashed out at Romney coordinated attack.  Newt gave a good history of his involvment, and Romney didn’t push it.  Best part of night for Newt.  Some on twitter say he should have gone after Romney harder on Reagan, but I’m not sure that would have helped rather than make him seem mean.

Rest of segment was ho hum.

At the second break:

Some back and forth between Newt and Blitzer over taxes, then Romney got involved on tax issue, giving another one of his speeches about hard work etc.  On surface Romney got the better of it, just not sure how it ultimately plays out.   Particularly when Newt suggested truce on personal attacks and Romney basically said no, in a round about way.

Discussion of space program pretty good for Newt in Florida, Romney basically threw cold water on it.  Santorum was supportive of exploring space, but against new programs and big ideas.  Basically all three then went after Newt on the issue.

Santorum went after Romney on Romneycare and Newt on mandate pretty hard, but mostly Romney, “we can’t give this issue away.”  Romney came across very poorly, said to Santorum (who was animated) “it’s not worth getting angry about” – crowd booed.  Up until this point Romney was doing well.  Santorum went after him harder “your mandate is no different than Barack Obama’s mandate.”

Strong segment for Santorum and, yes, Paul.

At the first break:

A lot of discussion of immigration, back and forth between Newt and Romney, they each hit some singles, no extra bases.

Romney denied knowledge of running an ad saying Gingrich referred to Spanish as the language of the ghetto.  Here’s the ad, right on his campaign website.  Blitzer then hammered Romney by pointing out it’s his ad and at end he says he approved it.  Good moment for Newt.

On Freddie, Romney got the better of the exchange.  Freddie is a topic which just never works well for Newt.

Santorum had a pretty good presence, scored probably moment of night so far saying nothing wrong with what Newt did or Mitt did, and they should stop with “petty personal attacks.”  Coming right after Romney scoring points on Newt about Freddie, it actuallly was a good save of Newt.


Before the start

First, listen to Mark Levin about the attacks on Newt.  He says just about everything I wanted to say, but better.  We are living in terrible times when a pretender to the conservativve throne is being crowned.  “If this is what the conservative movement has become, then count me out.”  Amen.

And then another voice of sanity:

Sarah Palin attacked Newt Gingrich’s detractors in an interview set to air tonight. “Look at Newt Gingrich, what’s going on with him, via the establishment’s attacks,” she told Fox Business Network. “They’re trying to crucify this man and rewrite history, and rewrite what it is that he has stood for all these years.”