When asked about his electability, Newt invoked Ronald Reagan, who was once thought unelectable — his first invocation of Reagan during the debate last night. If Mitt Romney were a yard dog, he might have fired back, “Hey, Newt, whose record are you running on — yours or Ronald Reagan’s?”
Mitt Romney is not a yard dog. But he did a damned good job at the debate anyway, turning in a winning performance after his abysmal one in South Carolina. He laid several gloves on Newt, and Newt — who wore a nasty facial expression most of the night — knew it. There were some good policy moments, but this show was mostly the Newt–Mitt faceoff to try to determine the outcome in Florida.
While Romney couldn’t get by with a line like “pious baloney,” he was nevertheless effective, persistent, and impressive in painting Gingrich as an “unreliable leader” (the theme of Romney’s new ad campaign), twice noting that Gingrich had left the House “in disgrace.” Romney also scored when he pointed out that the just-released contract for one of the years Gingrich was paid by Freddie Mac was negotiated by the lobbying department — and that the word “historian” was nowhere to be found in that document. Romney said that Newt may claim Freddie was paying him for his historical insights, but “I call it influence-peddling.”