Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivered yet another strong debate performance Saturday night in the CBS/National Journal foreign policy debate in South Carolina, overshadowing the rest of the Republican field.
Gingrich, who has honed his policy positions over decades in public life, was predicted to perform well, but he seemed to outpace even those high expectations. The college professor provided sweeping history lessons and pointed soundbites that energized the audience — and praise from many of his fellow candidates.
Gingrich passed up an opportunity to attack Mitt Romney’s management style — repeatedly shifting the debate back to the policies of President Barack Obama, and harsh criticisms of the nation’s enemies.
The performance is likely to solidify Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls — though does little to change the fact that he lacks the organisation and fundraising of even Herman Cain.
For Romney, who has recently regained the top-spot in the RealClearPolitics poll average, the debate was yet another opportunity to keep his head down as the “anti-Romney” candidates jostled for position — and he did just that.
He provided few surprises, preferring to spend most of his answers explaining the status quo to avoid laying out too-broad an agenda that would expose him to criticism. His most controversial remark was a rehash of his attack on China as a “currency manipulator,” drawing a veiled swipe from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman which missed its mark.
Herman Cain seemed strained by the topic — which was well outside of his 9-9-9 comfort zone. He stumbled his way through nearly every answer, and unable to convey the confidence he displays on economic issues to the President’s first responsibility — that of commander in chief.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry ate his Wheaties before the debate, but joking about his recent gaffe and meeting the exceedingly low expectations won’t bring his campaign back from the dead.
All in all there were few surprises in Spartanburg —and nothing that would radically reshape the Republican field.
Gingrich is still gaining support as Cain fades, and Romney is playing it safe.
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