I got home from filming PolitiChicks just in time to watch the debates on (stupid icky) CNN, after unblocking the channel of course…

It started out as expected with liberal commentator John King asking Newt Gingrich about the big story that broke today in which Gingrich’s ex-wife alleges that he had once asked her to ‘enter into an open marriage’.

“Would you like to take some time to respond to that?” King asked smugly, obviously believing this was a ‘gotcha question’ that Gingrich wouldn’t be able to answer.

WRONG, CNN!

“No,” Gingrich said, “but I will.”  (laughter and applause)  “I think a destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that.”  STANDING OVATION.  Wow.  John King looked stunned, as if he suddenly needed a drink of water (or something stronger).

But it didn’t end there.

“Let me finish,” the Speaker said as the applause died down.  “Every person in here knows personal pain.  Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things.  To take an ex wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”  (applause)

“My two daughters,” Gingrich continued, “wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”  (applause)

John King said, “As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network.  As you also know it is the subject of conversation on the campaign.  I get your point, I take…”

Gingrich interrupted him saying, “John, it was repeated by your network.  YOU chose to start the debate with it.  Don’t try to blame somebody else.  YOU,” he said pointing at King, “and your staff chose to start this debate with it.  Let me be quite clear–the story is false, every personal friend who knew us in that period says it was false, we offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false [but] they weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.  They attacked the governor, they’re attacking me, I’m sure they’ll get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.  I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama and attacking Republicans.”

SECOND STANDING OVATION and it’s only the first question!

King tried to regain control over the debate but I swear he was much paler than he was at the beginning of the debate.  I really am worried the guy’s going to pass out because this was NOT the way CNN thought the debate would go.  He asked each of the candidates to comment about Gingrich.

Santorum at first started talking about ‘character’ but he wisely directed his statement more toward forgiveness instead of attacking.  I’m sure he realized after the audience’s response he needed to take as high a road as possible.

Romney took an even higher road by saying, “John, let’s get down to the real issues, that’s all I’ve gotta say.”  applause

Congressman Paul also talked about the ‘corporations that run the media’ to great applause, too, and talked about setting standards.  Bravo to each of the candidates.

After that it was pretty much debate biz as usual, with Paul talking about ‘government getting out of the way’ and getting to a ‘near zero income tax’; Gingrich wanting to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, yada yada.  The one thing I really like that Romney has been doing in debates lately is that he keeps trying to redirect the attention back to how horrible Obama is.  In my opinion, reminding people how important it is to get Obama out of office just can’t be stressed often enough.

Romney was asked about the recent attack ads by Gingrich in regards to Bain Capital.

“The questions about Bain, many have been about the numbers,” King stated.  “You have said 120,000 jobs that you can tie back to decisions that you made at Bain Capital.  I want you to take your time, sir, and do the math, and how you get to 120,000 jobs.”

“I’ll do the math,” Romney responded, “but let me tell ya, I know we’re gonna get attacked on the left by Barack Obama on capitalism.”  He went on to talk about the jobs his businesses created, said some jobs were lost but that overall there’s “nothing wrong with profit.”

“I know we’re going to hit it hard from President Obama,” he said, “but we’re going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.”  Applause.  Romney even got a little red-faced when he was saying this; good to see a little passion from him.

Each of the candidates repeated their usual talking points and it got a little boring for awhile.  I unpacked my suitcase, ate some salad, checked Facebook…

They talked about repealing Obamacare and Gingrich again had a great soundbite.

“Why is President Obama for young people being able to stay on their parent’s insurance until 26?  Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance!”  (applause)  “I have an offer for the parents of America:  Elect us and your kids will be move out because they’ll have work!”  (laughter and applause)

FINALLY a candidate called out Romneycare in a big way.  Rick Santorum talked about what an abject failure it’s been for Massachusetts, said it was the foundation for Obamacare and questioned why Romney continues defending it.

(Side note:  Unfortunately while Santorum was talking I finally figured out what it is about his debating skills that I always find lacking.  He gets a little bit like a kid on the school yard, pointing out the bullies.  Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann did the same thing and I believe that’s part of the reason they’re both gone now.   My favorite debaters are the ones who stay on point; who are able to express what THEY will do to save America and to defeat Obama.  Pointing fingers at other people makes it look like you’re deflecting attention away from yourself, and that’s the way Santorum really came across to me tonight.  Matter of fact, at one point Ron Paul actually told him, “You are overly sensitive” which made the audience go nuts.)

John King continued throughout the night to instigate fights between the candidates.  It was annoying because these liberal commentators are GLEEFUL when our candidates go at it against each other instead of against Barack Obama.  He also did a VERY annoying thing by walking back and forth in front of the candidates throughout the entire night–almost like he was trying to stake out his territory, throw them off, remind them he’s the boss of the show (which he actually wasn’t.  Newt proved that.)

The candidates were asked again about releasing their tax returns.

“I don’t have intentions of doing it but for a different reason–I’d probably be embarrassed to put my financial statement up against their income,” Ron Paul said, gesturing at the apparently much-richer candidates and garnering laughter.  “Nobody’s challenging me because I have no conflict of interest and I don’t even talk to lobbyists and I don’t take that kind of money,” he added to cheers.

Romney said he’ll release his records IF he’s the nominee which I thought it was strange as did Gingrich.

“He’s got to decide and the people of South Carolina have to decide,” Gingrich said, “but if there’s anything in there that is going to help us lose the election we should know it before the nomination.”  VERY good point.  If he has nothing to hide, why is he acting so strange about it?  Hmmm…

Then came the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) question.  This is a pretty big issue for me personally.  In the wrong hands–which is where it would be with the Obama administration– something like SOPA could mean total censorship of the internet.  This is my livelihood and Conservative bloggers, writers, artists, PolitiChick-type folks should be VERY worried about this thing.  My opinion is that this needs to be something the individual companies find a way to manage–not turn it over to the ever-expanding government to take care of for them.  (Police State, anyone?)

Speaker Gingrich said, “You’re asking a Conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood.”  (laughter)  “I’m weighing it–I’m not rushing in, I’m trying to think through all of the many fond left-wing people who are so eager to protect…on the other hand you have everyone who’s technologically advanced, including Google and YouTube and Facebook who say it’s totally going to mess up the Internet…I favor freedom and I think if we have a patent office, copyright law.  If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon it has the right to sue but the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporation’s economic interest strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.”  Applause!  (Including from me!)

Romney and Ron Paul agreed with Gingrich that the law as it’s written is very bad.  So far so good!

Although Santorum said he doesn’t support the law, he added, “The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people.  And particularly when we’re talking about entities offshore that are pirating…I agree that this thing goes too far, but the idea that ‘anything goes’ on the Internet, where did that come from?  Where in America does it say anything goes?”

John King asked all the candidates, “If you had a chance to do one thing over again, what would it be?”

Romney got the biggest laugh of the night when he said, “Well, I’d have worked harder to get 25 more votes in Iowa, that’s for sure!”  That really was funny and unexpected.  He added, “I also would go back and take back every moment I spent talking about one of the guys on the stage and spent that time talking about Barack Obama because the truth is that Barack Obama is way over his head.  He’s taking us down a path that’s very dangerous, he’s making us more and more like a European social welfare state, he’s making us an entitlement society, he’s taking away the rights of our citizens, he believes government should run this country…and I would be talking about that more and probably about my colleagues less because frankly any one of them would be a better president than the one we’ve got.”

Paul mentioned he would have changed his ability to deliver a message (good call, Dr. Paul…) and only Santorum said he wouldn’t change a thing.

They covered all the usual issues including immigration and abortion.  One interesting thing was John King didn’t ask Ron Paul his stance on abortion and the crowd went nuts yelling “Paul! Paul!”

“After all, I am a doctor!” Paul said with a laugh.

Overall, other than the amazing beginning when Newt Gingrich totally schooled liberal John King, the debate was really just business as usual.  In my opinion, Gingrich won again–because of his opening and also his closing statements in which he said:

“We have a real challenge:  it is imperative that we defeat Barack Obama.  This is, I believe, the most dangerous president of our lifetime and if he is reelected after the disaster that he has been, the level of radicalism of his second term will be truly frightening.  But in addition to beating Obama, we have to have a team victory in the Senate and the House and we have to have a principal victory where the American people send a signal that January of 2013 they want very dramatic, very deep change in Washington.  I believe the only way to create the momentum is to be able to overcome his billion dollar campaign with a series of debates which decisively convince the American people that a Saul Alinsky radical who is incompetent cannot be reelected and I hope you will vote for me on Saturday as the person who can do that.”

 

The other three tied for second; each of them had good points and did pretty well.  No clue who’s going to win South Carolina but it will definitely be the most interesting race so far.