GOP Debate Reaction: Gingrich Continues to Impress
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich gave a strong performance Saturday night
On a day when GOP presidential canididates criss-crossed South Carolina prior to debating at Wofford College, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's meteoric rise through the ranks of the Republican candidates could have taken another step.
If this 10th debate, hosted by CBS News and the National Journal, had a winner, the early reactions suggest it was Gingrich, who continues to rise in the polls and opened an office in Greenville earlier on Saturday.
“Newt is a master of facts,” said one Twitter follower.
Every debate attendee who stopped to talk to Patch following the event in Spartanburg said the night belonged primarily to Gingrich.
Insiders also praised Gingrich, who sparred briefly with one of the debate's moderators Scott Pelley.
“'I'm really beginning to think Gingrich is our best bet for success,” said one on Twitter.
Many voters Patch spoke to were interested in Herman Cain, who had struggled with foreign policy questions in interviews.
Expectations were not high for Cain, and voters felt he needed to limit the damage caused by recent sexual harrassment allegations. But they were not even sure he did that. One voter described the Atlanta-based businessman as “overwhelmed,” particularly when compared to other candidates.
Those following the debate with Patch and on Twitter were impressed with the performance of former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who lags far behind in the polls, both nationally and in South Carolina.
“He was by far the most substantive,” said one voter.
Huntsman supporter and former state attorney general Henry McMaster said: “Jon has more expertise than any of the candidates and he showed that tonight,” McMaster said.
S.C. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis boasted that his candidate, Mitt Romney, best understood the relationship between foreign policy and the economy. If Romney has a soft spot, some thought it was in foreign policy. But debate-watchers all noted a reluctance by the other candidates to criticize Romney.
Meanwhile, supporters of Reps. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann complained about the lack of airtime given to their candidates. The vocal Paul contingent noted with their usual emphasis that the Texas Congressman was only given 90 seconds of debate time in an hour and-a-half of debate time.
Bachmann’s campaign released a memo that suggested that CBS had little intention of giving her much time.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum’s supporters at events earlier in the day were optimistic at their candidates’ chances, Santorum performed well but his positions were hard to distinguish from Gingrich’s in some cases.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters were pleased that the Texas Governor was able to joke about his gaffe at the last debate. But Perry was also criticized for being light on specifics.
While the general consensus was that none of the candidates will rise or fall based on the performance on Saturday, with 70 days until primary day, time is beginning to matter for candidates in need of a surge — such as Huntsman and Santorum.