It looks like Romney's new debate coach really paid off because he was really ready for Newt last night. I think Newt does better when the questions are about policy or when they are just attacking the GOP, because that brings his very focused and effective fire. He seems to thrive on answering those questions, looking both passionate and yet calm at the same time. He doesn't do so well when the questioners throw some red meat on the stage and try to get the candidates to tear each other apart for it. Newt seems to vacillate between not trying to seem too angry, and therefore letting himself get hit, and then getting angry and saying something he will regret later (also I think Newt started off way too angry after all the character assassination thrown his way by Romney's campaign over the last couple of days, if you notice he could barely even look at Romney). Newt, who is full of content, just doesn't do well in these essentially content free battles which are just personal insults going back and forth. Mitt, who lacks any content, clearly does well, especially with his new coach. When the debate did move to actual policy discussions Mitt ended up getting creamed during the discussion on Romneycare. For Mitt, a top down socialist healthcare system was somehow not worth getting angry about. Was he in a coma in 2009 and 2010? You bet it's worth getting angry about!
Anyway, at this point, it looks like Florida is Mitt's for the taking and there are likely not going to be any more GOP debates after this one as there is no incentive for Romney to say yes. He will leave Florida with momentum and one of the main avenues for his opponents to stop that momentum will no longer be there. But all hope is not lost. The Tea Party is mostly behind Newt and they are the masters of grass roots organizing, something that will help in the upcoming races which are caucuses in Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota. If they can get the very passionate and energized Newt supporters out on caucus night, perhaps Newt can take 2-3 of those and that could be enough to make it a race again. Just remember, in 1976, when Reagan challenged President Ford, he lost the first 5 contests and yet was able to take the race all the way up to the convention. It's not over yet.
This is a fight for the soul of the Republican Party and if Romney wins, it has no soul.