So who won last night’s GOP debate? This seems to be the question on the lips of the media-rati this morning. In the immediate post-game on NBC, Chuck Todd and co. seemed to award it to Newt on points. This morning, however , I’m seeing a lot of headlines about Mittens’ “offensive” posture and (equal and opposite) Newt’s “defensiveness” on Freddie Mae. From a narratological perspective, then, I’d give this one to Mitt.
However, I’m not convinced that last night’s conservative convo did anything to move the meter for either candidate. What struck me was Newt’s relative solemnity compared to his bombastic idiocy last week. While some commentators were chalking this up to a new “strategy” on his part, I’d argue that it was due in large part to the enforced silence of the crowd. Before the debate began, moderator Brian Williams preemptively told the audience to shut the fuck up–and, for the most part, they did. No hooting, catcalls, or standing ovations for anyone. I thought Newt was really reaching for the crowd in the first 20 minutes or so of the debate, especially during his first response. Williams asked him, basically: Hey, Mitt’s been calling you a dick here in Florida. How would you respond?
And Mitt went right to the Newtian playbook: he pushed back against the question, tried to get under Williams’ skin (and failed, as Brian was on some major downers last night), and repeated lines that, in last week’s debates, would have earned him an enthusiastic vocal response from the crowd. But because of the constraints imposed on the audience’s behavior, he got–nothing. [And what do you know? Gingrich is now saying he won’t participate in future debates if the audiences aren’t allowed to vocalize their approval/disapproval. Excellent!] And I think it rattled him, enough for Romney to make him wobble during their (oh god so long and boring) bitchfest over Bain Capital and Freddie Mac.
My favorite moment of the night: Mittens celebrates at the thought of Castro dying and burning in hell. Awesome display of Christianity, dickweed.
So we’ll see what happens on Thursday during the CNN debate. Will Newt make good on his threat? Will Romney try to bring the pain? Will Ron Paul get to speak more than six minutes in two hours? We shall see.