LIBERTY NEWS NETWORK OPINION
My close friends and contacts know I’m not a fan of Newt Gingrich. My reasons areÂ numerousÂ and you can read some of them here and here. That said, there is no denying Newt Gingrich has somehow captured the support of half of the tea party movement. While I may disagree with many of you on Gingrich, I respect your decision and acknowledge it’s a popular decision within the ranks of our movement.
As I’ve said a few times over the past week or two, I can understand the support for Gingrich in a last ditch attempt to stop Mitt Romney. That’s an admirable effort and so long as that is the reasoning I’m with you on the decision. It’s when I see claims that Gingrich represents the values of the tea party movement that I get a little crooked in my chair. To go further into that discussion would be to digress, though, so let’s get back on topic.
Newt Gingrich has used debates to stomp the positions of his opponents, rally the Not-Romney crowd and unify an effort to stop theÂ MassachusettsÂ moderate from grabbing the GOP nomination. Gingrich has done so with superb calculation and success. After winning South Carolina, Gingrich surged to the top in the Florida RCP average and looked positioned to make a grand stand in the final days leading up to the Florida primary. All Gingrich needed to do is, as he’s now done so many times in the past, Â stand out and shine in two Florida debates.
Unfortunately for Gingrich, he failed in both. The first debate could be viewed as somewhat of a fluke. No audience involvement was allowed and it crippled Newt’s ability to do what he does well. Newt feeds off the energy of the crowd. In turn, the crowd does the same. In the first debate it was clear Newt struggled to find his footing when he couldn’t get his base involved. That wasn’t just an excuse, it was a reality.
So when CNN announced the crowd could take part in their Florida debate, I figured it was “game on” as Rick Santorum would put it. I expected Newt Gingrich would show up with his A-game and throw some knock out punches, leading him to a very competitive finish in Florida. Much to my surprise, that didn’t happen.
Not at all.
In fact, Gingrich got thumped. Not just once or twice either. Newt was constantlyÂ pummeledÂ from multiple directions. And worse, the blows he had prepared to throw at Romney ended up backfiring on him. Which is really strange because Newt is a smart guy and I have a hard time believing he was schooled like that. Every time he began gaining steam on a point he was making towards Romney, he gave Romney an easy window and stood in silence when it was his turn to pivot and fight back.
Romney’s toughest moment came when Rick Santorum spent several minutes drilling him on Romneycare. An issues that SHOULD have been at the core of the narrative against Romney from day one. Santorum caught Romney in the trap multiple times and Romney had a difficult time dealing with it. Specifically, when he mentioned 82% already covered and 8% made to pay for care they receive (In MA), followed by Santorum’s charge that 100% were mandated. Romney could not squirm out of this. It was his worst moment of the night.
But why was that Romney’s only real black eye moment? OK sure he had the slip up on the ad he didn’t know about, but I don’t think that will stick come Tuesday.
The bottom line is that Gingrich got thumped. And whether you like it or not, it will likely come back to haunt him Tuesday. Right now Romney is leading Florida by 7% in the RCP average. I still maintain Romney will win by a big margin next week. As always, anything can happen, but last night was Newt’s biggest chance at turning this thing around and it just didn’t happen.