Here's the highlight reels:
However, I've gotta say Levin called one huge component of this on Tuesday's program...
...as well as on Wednesday...
And Santorum was on defense most of the night for it. I'm not certain that he expected that kind of relentless double-team (or John King's moderation usually giving Romney the final word, which has been a running theme throughout the season), but he certainly got it. And along with his libertarian lackey, as well as the stacked audience, Mitt executed what he intended: cast doubt about Santorum in the minds of undecided voters. Will it work? We'll find out in these coming primaries.
I don't think Santorum bombed, but the punditry certainly took no time in expressing that this was a 'missed opportunity' for Santorum. Although there's no question he definitely took his lumps, he nonetheless held his own, owned up to his mistakes when called out on (as he consistently has), and continued to speak from the heart with that unscripted appeal. The effectiveness of a few of his responses, particularly the one on No Child Left Behind, I'll admit, seemed just as debatable as some of Romney's...however, the sincerity in Santorum's admission was there (unlike the inabilities of both Romney or Paul to admit they're even capable of folly).
(nonetheless, it would have been beneficial to leave it at the previous mention)
Not to make excuses, because I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a little heat from some bad past calls. That's how you learn from experience. But I think anyone would be hard-pressed to name a single politician who's never voted for something they weren't 100% behind (and although Ron Paul would attempt to make that claim, he's not fooling anyone when he puts earmarks in legislation that he knows will pass, then votes against it to 'appear' noble, which Santorum sorta called him on, but not in quite those terms). What Santorum did attempt to do in those particular pieces of legislation, for better or worse, was to place equitable objectives if he knew it was going to pass anyway.
However bad No Child Left Behind turned out to be, sorry, but it's still no where on par with RomneyCare. Our nation isn't on the brink of losing essential liberties because of NCLB. We find ourselves at that precipice, not in total, but to an integral degree, because a New England moderate devised a mandate on healthcare that his liberal friends took and ran with! Not NCLB, nor earmarks, nor even the crystal ball argument on how Arlen Specter would end up, are the issues in this election. A definitive connection in social engineering with the establishment candidate and our current occupant is in conjunction with a key issue in this election.
But to move beyond the snippiness and bullying of Romney, the double-teaming of he and Paul, and the bruised-but-not-out Santorum, the most unscathed of Wednesday night's debate was unquestionably Gingrich. As Quin Hillyer stated:
Newt Gingrich performed best. He didn't dominate, didn't rejuvenate his campaign, in fact seemed a bit irrelevant to the horse race and at times even a little bored... but because he is no longer a threat, nobody challenged him and, just as in the summer and early fall, it allowed him to play the wise man on stage. He had a number of pretty good lines, and made a lot of sense. He might get a bit of an uptick in the polls from it -- but that's all.
TheRightScoop poll appears to confirm this consensus (although, it looks to be the opposite of Romney-attack-dog Drudge...but then that poll allots for Ron Paul, so there goes the validity of that poll!).
I tend to want to agree with Hillyer on his overall analysis of Wednesday night's debate, despite the MSM taglines:
I don't think tonight's campaign is going to do much to radically change te trajectory of this race. Nobody dominated, and nobody bombed. ...Overall, this debate was nowhere near as momentous as some earlier ones have been. Romney and Santorum both missed the chance to really grab the bull by the horns and really talk about the future and about their own positive agendas. It'll be a close race in Michigan and Arizona because neither elevated himself above the other.