Alex Marlow, Managing Editor, Breitbart.com:
New, aggressive Mitt Romney, who debuted in the goofy Brian Williams quasi-debate last week, was out in full force tonight and he was very, very good. Romney needs to be ready for a fight if he’s to go toe-to-toe with Obama, and the former Massachusetts Governor is finally showing some grit. Rick Santorum drew some blood on him in a heated exchange on healthcare, but Mitt has sworn he’d repeal Obamacare, and that should mitigate many voters’ concerns about his sub-par record on that issue.
Newt Gingrich is most effective when he’s bashing the media and taking the fight to the left (as opposed to strictly Obama), and he wasn’t able do much of either tonight. He called moderator Wolf Blitzer on one “nonsense question,” which was fun, and was able to shoe-horn in one Alinsky reference (which he didn't have the chance to flesh-out), but those high-ish-lights weren’t enough to make up for an otherwise pedestrian performance.
Rick Santorum spent the first two thirds of the debate yelling at people—though his talking
yelling points were generally quite good—and then got sweet and sensitive for the latter third. I like my President cool, calm, and collected, and Santorum needs work on that front.
Thanks to Ron Paul for the comic relief.
As usual, the real winner tonight was President Obama and his palace guards we call the mainstream media. While Wolf Blitzer wasn’t overtly partisan, he was able to keep the focus off of the failure currently occupying the White House or left-wing values and on moon colonies and which wife is best.
Mike Flynn, Editor, BigGovernment:
There was a moment tonight when one of the nominees gave a robust defense of capitalism. He discussed the value of risk, investments and the jobs that are created as a result. Imagine my surprise when I realized that candidate was...Mitt Romney. The Mitt Romney that had always been promised finally decided to make an appearance tonight. His rise eclipsed Gingrich.
This is why campaigns matter. They bring out the best and worst of candidates. More importantly, seeing how they adapt to the campaign tells us much more than any ad or stump speech can reveal. Newt is falling from his high water mark. He had a good "line" in attacking the media in past debates, but his propensity to attack the foundation of capitalism or anything related to the private sector is disturbing. Attacking Romney over foreclosures after cashing millions of dollars in checks for "lobbying" for Freddie Mac suggests a subjective moral relativity that I don't want to know. I predict his campaign will fade quickly.
After Romney, Rick Santorum had a great night. He scored real points against Romney on health care. Unfortunately for him, he has no money and no real path to the nomination. He is making Romney a better debater, though, so I expect a future role for him. He and Newt are making Romney a better candidate. Rick, though, is keeping his attacks clean, so I think he gets a place in a Romney Administration.
And the S%&t Ron Paul says. There wasn't much about foreign policy tonight, which is when Ron Paul shines. He's like a greek chorus that provides the narrative frame for the debate. Romney, Santorum or Gingrich can make their earnest pleas for some kind of government action in some part of our lives and Paul is there to say "STOP". Yeah, he's a bit of the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, but he makes all the other candidates better.
Joel Pollak, Editor-in-chief, Breitbart.com:
This was one worth watching. Top ten best moments in the CNN Debate:
10. Gingrich refusing to back down on Israel after moderator Wolf Blitzer tried to challenge his comments on Palestinian identity.
9. Santorum giving a sincere, beautiful tribute to his wife--a great answer to a rather awkward question.
8. Romney's answer to the question about why he was best to beat Obama was flawed, but passionate.
7. Santorum's answer on religion--insisting our rights come from God--was sincere, relevant, and convincing.
6. Paul's answer on his age was both funny and cutting; he surpassed Gingrich in confronting CNN by using humor instead of outrage.
5. Romney's answer on a question about Palestinians was a brilliant articulation of the pro-Israel position and how Obama has let our ally down.
4. Santorum on Romney: "We cannot give the issue of health care away in this election. It is foundational." The simple political truth of RomneyCare.
3. Santorum repeatedly pivoted on questions to provide bigger, better answers--particularly when he was the first to criticize Obama's State of the Union address.
2. Santorum seizes the opportunity to cite his record on Fannie & Freddie, and to attack both Romney and Gingrich for "petty, personal politics." That set the stage for his win.
1. Romney to Gingrich on illegal immigration: "Our problem is not 11 million grandmothers." Gingrich never recovered.
Overall, Guy Benson said it best: "Micro: Santorum wins. Macro: Romney."