Dude. What happened Newt?
Seriously. One week ago, you were the darling of the Republican party. You stood up for yourself and swatted every attack that came your direction. By most accounts you won the debates in South Carolina, which (undoubtedly) carried you to a primary victory in the Palmetto State.
But last night, that candidate all-but disappeared.
I watched the 1,208,317th debate last night on CNN and I have to say Newt, you got clobbered by Mitt Romney. None of your attacks stuck. All of his rhetorical punches landed with a resounding 'thud'. Bruised and battered was your political appearance by the conclusion.
That's not to say that you didn't give it your best.
For example, this exchange with newsman and moderator Wolf Blitzer was priceless:
WOLF BLITZER: We're continuing the debate here in Jacksonville, Florida.Newt, you have the Republican audience eating conservative fruit right out of your hand! Fantastic! Now, bring it on home with a slam on the liberal media, and you'll have this thing all wrapped up, with a pretty bow on top!
Let's get to the issue of transparency, because voters out there, they want to know as much about you four gentlemen as possible before they vote.
Tax returns - let me bring this to Speaker Gingrich.
Earlier this week, you said Governor Romney, after he released his taxes, you said that you were satisfied with the level of transparency of his personal finances when it comes to this. And I just want to reiterate and ask you, are you satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as his personal finances?
NEWT GINGRICH: Wolf, you and I have a great relationship, it goes back a long way. I'm with [Rick Santorum]. This is a nonsense question. [APPLAUSE, CHEERS FROM CROWD] Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we'll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?
BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, "He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts." I didn't say that. You did.
GINGRICH: I did. And I'm perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.
BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that. [BOOS AND JEERS FROM CROWD]
Then, just when I thought that your fellow Republican candidates would help you pile-on Wolf Blitzer for asking "nonsense questions", Mitt Romney jumps in:
Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here?Damn.
That's where I think that the tide turned for you Newt.
There are lots of folks saying that last night's debate was your 'last chance' to make a stand Newt -- and I have to say that I am starting to agree. You surged upward in the polls last fall, then fell off. Last week, after some great debate performances and a strong finish in South Carolina's primary, you got another bounce in the polls, but have fallen off once again.
Unless there is some kind of game-changer (like, winning the Florida primary on Tuesday, for example), I really don't see how you come back again.
Time and time again, I have heard from those who support Newt Gingrich -- as well as from the former Speaker of the House himself -- that a chief reason for backing his candidacy in the Republican primary is his superior debating skill. Many a supporter has argued that Gingrich will be able to defeat Barack Obama in a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates (over which, you seem to be obsessed Newt). After your performance last night, I would LOVE to hear from Gingrich supporters regarding this theory. It seems to me that Mitt Romney debated circles around you Newt. And that is being generous.
On Wednesday, GOP12's Christian Heinze outlined the reasons that the 'Newt-As-A-Superior-Debater' argument simply doesn't work. And there are three very good reasons...
Look Newt, I'm not telling you how to run your show. Clearly, you are a far-more experienced politician than I. However, I would argue that your continued candidacy in the 2012 primary for the Republican nomination will not help the eventual nominee.
Whomever that may be (*cough* ROMNEY *cough*).