Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Mitt Romney emerged after the first debate a stronger candidate and contender facing incumbent Barack Obama.
“If Romney had had as bad a debate as Obama, we would be sitting here talking about the election being over,” Gingrich said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Romney got himself back into contention in one night.”
A former Republican candidate who debated Romney early in the campaign, Gingrich said such public forums are important because they enable voters to see a politician’s personality and character.
“I thought Romney, frankly, was helped because the Obama campaign spent three months portraying him as a person he’s not,” he said. “These things do matter.”
He said Obama’s poor performance added to Romney’s appeal.
“I got the sense that first night that he [Obama] wasn’t there to compete,” Gingrich said. “If you wanted to give him the presidency again, that’d be all right, and he’d be happy to show up. That came through. Obama was a much bigger shock in the first debate than Romney was.”
All bets are off if Obama returns Tuesday with another bad showing.
“If Obama has one more debate as bad as his first debate, I think he will be in enormous trouble,” Gingrich said. “He couldn’t take a second debate as bad as his first debate without, I think, seeing the whole race blow wide open.”
As for Vice President Joe Biden’s performance last week in Kentucky, Gingrich said the scrappy statesman interrupted opponent Paul Ryan too many times.
“You can’t interrupt 82 times in 41 minutes,” he said. “You start looking like a caricature of yourself.”
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