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GOP contenders for President tried to turn leader Mitt Romney into a collective punching bag at the first of two South Carolina primary debates Monday night but the general consensus is that the former Massachusetts governor emerged pretty much unscathed.
“It wasn’t one of Romney’s best debate performances but his opponents needed a knockout punch and they didn’t land one,” GOP analyst Andrea Collins told Capitol Hill Blue after the debate.
Most debate watchers interviewed agreed that Romney held his own while others felt former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich may have fired up his supporters with a typically bombastic performance.
“Gingrich won the debate on style but Romney is too far ahead at this point for it to make a difference,” said GOP strategist James Andersen. “It was good theater but not a game changer.”
Some, however, felt Gingrich could gain momentum with another strong performance in the second debate on Thursday.
MSNBC talk show host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough says Gingrich could shock Romney in the South Carolina primary.
“Wow,” is how Scarborough describes Gingrich’s debate performance.
GOP activist Kelly Williams agrees.
“Romney was off his game,” she says. “He needs to pull it back together on Thursday or it could be a long primary campaign.”
While debate watchers disagree on whether or not Romney came out of the debate unschathed, they did agree that Rick Perry and Rick Santorum went nowhere.
“They were non-entities,” says South Carolina Republican Sam Sanderson. “It was all Gingrich and Romney.”
And Ron Paul? What about the third place finisher in Iowa and second place finalist in New Hampshire?
Loser, says Scarborough.
“Ron Paul lost the crowd,” Scarborough said Tuesday morning, citing the Texas Congressman’s weak answers on killing Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“When he said we shouldn’t have killed Osama bin Laden, it was over for him,” Scarborough says. “When he starts talking about 9/11 and Osama bin Laden he turns off the crowd and voters.”