Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate has sparked a mixed bag of opinions on whether Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich better deflected their opponents' attacks.
But, in a variety of interviews with Newsmax.TV, it appears that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out on top.
Following the heated event, presidential candidate Rick Santorum denounced rival Mitt Romney’s slippery “school” debate tactics.
“I don’t think I was angry but I was very passionate, because . . . that’s a debate tactic. Mitt Romney, school debater, trying to divert attention from a basic issue which is he supported something that the mass majority of Floridians and probably a super majority of Republican Floridians want nothing to do with,” Santorum told Newsmax.TV, about the Massachusetts healthcare overhaul that former Gov. Romney signed in 2006.
“They don’t want a candidate, I believe, ultimately, who’s going to have to go up against Barack Obama and give away the most important things in this election which is freedom and economic liberty,” Santorum said.
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson also took issue with Romney’s viability as the Republican candidate, arguing that Newt Gingrich is the only contender who lives in the “real world.”
“We’re going to need somebody who is tough, articulate, substantive, who knows the stuff, tunes into the American people, understands the frustration out here, understands what it’s like to live in the real world, and who can articulate the issues and take it to Obama,” Thompson told Newsmax.TV.
“I’d like to see Obama and Gingrich discuss the so-called State of the Union address the other night, for example, and the fact that if you have all the rich taxes that he wanted it’d be about 10 percent of the debt service. It wouldn’t do anything about the debt. But 10 percent of the debt service.”
Thompson concluded that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can “carry the mail.”
J.C. Watts, former congressman from Oklahoma, lambasted Romney’s debate tactics, specifically when it came to his defense of his blind trust fund.
“I don’t think the governor gave a very good response on the trust fund issue. Of course, I don’t know a whole lot about trust funds or blind trust funds, but if I’ve got a trust fund, I want to see,” Watts told Newsmax.TV.
“I don't understand blind trust funds, but I do know enough about it to say that you can set parameters. You can say, 'I don't want my money in foreign accounts. I don’t want my money invested in tobacco or liquor or whatever.' So I think the fact that he's been going on record in the past saying that he did give parameters of where to and where not to put his money I thought it was interesting that tonight he said it was blind and he does not do that.”
Rep. Dan Burton came to Gingrich’s defense saying that his main goal of attending the debate was to set the record straight about the speaker.
“Newt got us welfare reform. Newt got us balanced budgets. Newt started the Conservative Opportunity Society. He's the one that got us the majority in the Congress for the first time in 40 years,” Burton said.
Burton went on to say that not only has Gingrich done an outstanding job during his time as speaker, but that he is the right candidate to defeat President Barack Obama.
“I really believe, because of his knowledge and his ability, that he would be the best equipped to debate Barack Obama and I think he could beat Barack Obama,” Burton said.
One of the more tense exchanges of Thursday night's debate came when Romney and Gingrich got locked into an argument about Gingrich’s characterization of Romney as “anti-immigrant.”
“I just think that the idea of the anti-immigrant thing was something that Romney rehearsed, he wanted to stage that, and so give him credit for doing that. But the truth of the matter is that Newt's policies on immigration are sound,' Bill McCollum, former congressman and Florida attorney general, said in defense of Gingrich.
"I served on the immigration committee for 18 years. It’s a tough, hot area. He has really good immigration policies, articulated them well in the past. He articulated them well tonight. I just think that . . . I wouldn't say it was defense, I'd just say he answered the questions.”
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