Sunday morning’s debate had a much smaller audience than last night’s and a much sparkier beginning, but the same distortions brought about by having an Obama partisan moderate a debate among conservatives. My thoughts on David Gregory’s abysmal job of moderating will be over at NRO’s The Corner later this morning, but on the key question of impact on actual voters, the debate could not have moved the needle for anyone much but almost certainly played into everyone’s tentative decisions in New Hampshire.
Gregrory got both Newt and Rick Santorum to take hard shots at Romney and Romney responded well. On policy questions –the EPA especially– Santorum, Gingrich and Romney all excelled, and I have to think New Hampshire voters in particular would have liked Romney’s performance over the others especially given his answer on achieving real results despite having an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature opposite him.
But I strongly suspect the former Speaker went a bridge too far in the last half hour –again egged on by Gregory– and gave Romney the perfect opening to review the true statements in the SuperPac ads objected to by Newt. Some on my Twitter feed believe Newt is no longer trying to win, and is instead on “a mission” to destroy Romney, but that doesn’t seem right either. He’s trying to be both the happy warrior and to dethrone Santorum as the alternative to Romney by creating “Newt v. Mitt” headlines. Quoting the New York Times doesn’t seem to me to be the way to do that. Pushing back hard at Gregory’s bias was. The former overshadowed the latter, and probably killed any chance of even a small swing back to the Speaker.
Mitt Romney’s looks like he is going to win New Hampshire handily. The field is going to remain splintered among alternatives headed into South Carolina. The only thing Romney has to worry about is one of the other three dropping out and endorsing one of the other two, and that just doesn’t seem likely.
Two debates in 15 hours leaves the GOP race right where it was when they began, but they certainly have reminded everyone that the MSM is going to be working overtime for their guy Obama from now until November.
FYI: Since state mottos came up, here’s the quick guide to all 50. Ohio’s is officially “With God all things are possible.” But it really is “Beat Michigan.”