Very good night for Romney because the fiery Newt had nothing to torch, and in fact was battling back the charges of lobbying/influence peddling from the start. So now the K Street questions are: What did Newt do, for whom, for how long, and for how much? These are front-runner questions, like Romney’s tax returns were after New Hampshire.
The expectation of Newt the Great Debater also took a hit, because crowd out of it, just as they will be in the debates in the fall — if Obama agrees to any.
Rick Santorum had a great night, and his noting that the Tea Party had three well-spring issues, and that both Romney and Gingrich were wrong on all of them is a great bit of rhetoric.
The big loser: MSM, again. The “local journalists,” well, only wannabe MSNBC panelists would come up with that list of questions, asked in that sequence, with that sort of indifference to the answers actually given.
Newt’s failure to make a big impression, or answer key questions, is what will linger. For a day. Now the air war takes over, and tonight is best understood as Romney’s set-up for that series of ads, the first one of which today was devastating to Newt. I don’t think they are going to get easier.