I think, unquestionably, the big story out of tonight’s debate is that no one really landed a glove on Newt Gingrich. Not Mitt Romney. And not anyone else. Not even close. There were a few tries. But Newt’s a clever guy and managed to parry them pretty well. The closest the debate got to exposing Newt’s shortcomings was the exchange over the Palestinians. But it was pretty subtle and not something that is going to hurt Gingrich in a primary battle. So again, no one laid a glove on Gingrich. And that alone makes it a huge victory for Gingrich since the tide of the race is moving overwhelmingly in his direction.
A few other observations.
Newt’s career politician line about Romney losing to Ted Kennedy isn’t new. Rick Perry used a version of it in an earlier debate. But Newt delivered it in a way that just stung Romney real bad and got the crowd on Newt’s side. Thinking back over the debate, I feel like that was kind of a turning point. After that Romney just seemed too small to really manage or pull off any stinging attack on Newt.
Then there was Mitt’s betting line. Stupid line, sort of stupid as an issue. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom just told our Evan McMorris-Santoro he thought it was a great moment for Mitt. But it’s one of those graspable, funny, mockable, meme-able lines that people who didn’t even watch the debate will be talking about. (As of 11:16 PM on the east coast #what10buys — the hashtag pushed by the DNC — is now a trending hashtag in the United States on Twitter.) And, yep, let’s say it: how many people make $10,000 bets?
That’s not what Romney needs right now. He was supposed to be on the attack. But Gingrich owned the debate.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.