Who Won The Republican Debate Last Night?

Santorum Wins South Carolina Republican Debate

Republican presidential primary hopefuls gave voters yet another glimpse of themselves in the final Iowa GOP Presidential Primary debate before the January 3, 2012 Iowa Caucus last night in Sioux City, Iowa.
Fox News hosted and aired the GOP Primary debate which included the top three Iowa contenders: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney; along with trailing single-digit candidates Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman.
Perhaps wisely, Romney displayed a safe strategy where he did not go out on a limb regarding political issues or personal attacks on his opponents. There were no zingers out of Romney.  But he did not make any regrettable mistakes like he did with the $10k bet to Rick Perry in the prior debate.
Mitt Romney stuck to memorized talking points last night.  Strangely, some of the answers didn't even seem to fit the questions asked by the Fox News moderators.  Whenever Romney ran out of things to say, he would re-state the problems the country is facing without actually stating his platform's solutions.  

Newt Gingrich was the human pinata at last night's debate.  Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann both took turns hitting at Gingrich's payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Gingrich responded to the attacks by saying, "I did no lobbying of any kind."  Bachmann jumped on Gingrich's response, "You don't have to be in the technical definition of lobbying to influence peddle."
Ron Paul won the applause of audience members when he said, "Gingrich has a different view of private enterprise, GSEs are government sponsored.  It's fascism when big government and big business get together.  Government Sponsored Enterprise is not private enterprise."
Fox News moderator Neal Cavuto asked Ron Paul, "Have you contributed earmarks?" To which Ron Paul replied, "If the Federal Government takes money from my district, I have an obligation to get it back."
Texas Governor Rick Perry once again stole the after-morning soundbite by comparing himself to Tim Tebow, although it may not do much to advance his struggling campaign.

As to electability, Ron Paul drew the most applause from the audience with his response when he said, "Anybody up here can beat Obama."

Some commentators from the ranks of the journalistic elite are claiming this morning that Ron Paul lost the debate because of his non-intervention stance with Iran.  But there lies the divide between the political, financial, and media elite and American voters.  For over a year, in every poll of the  issues most important to voters, terrorism and foreign policy issues have remained in the single digits while the economy remains the most important issue to voters.

So as to who won or lost last night:
Mitt Romney: Neutral (and perhaps planned that way).
Newt Gingrich: Lost the most as his insider influence peddling was highlighted throughout the debate.
Ron Paul: Won because the media now talks about him and more voters are getting to know him.
Michele Bachmann: Won because she has done well the last two debates, but too late to gain momentum.
Rick Perry: Neutral, but entertaining.

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