If you believe the polls, Newt needed a big night to turn around the momentum and he didn’t get it. He struck me as tired and too ticked for his own good. I don’t understand why he invested so heavily at the beginning in defending the “anti-immigrant” ad that he pulled and Rubio had criticized. For the first time perhaps ever, Romney effectively showed righteous indignation (unfortunately for me, since I have a column tomorrow saying he isn’t quite capable of it). On Fannie and Freddie, Romney won the exchange when he dropped it on Gingrich that the Speaker, too, had invested in the mortgage giants; whatever oppo guy came up with that for Romney deserves a raise and perhaps should get cut into one of those Cayman accounts. Then, the decisive moment of the debate and perhaps the primary, when Gingrich tried to wheel on Wolf Blitzer and it didn’t work. Gingrich attempted to argue that it was OK for him to attack Romney for his tax returns in a TV interview but “nonsense” to try to get him to talk about it during the debate. Romney pounced and—in a moment reminiscent of Pawlenty’s “Obamneycare” snafu–hit Gingrich for not being willing to repeat his charge in person. Gingrich had to give in and address the matter, after seeing his old moderator trick fail and sounding peevish in the bargain. Romney was forceful throughout, but messed up a few facts that will create post-debate storylines. He gave his best, most forceful defense yet of his wealth, although I can’t imagine hearing so much about his blind trust is going to help with the working-class vote. Santorum was simply terrific. He showed why anti-Romney conservatives would have been much better served by rallying around him rather Newt. Ron Paul was hilarious.
by Rich Lowry