Conducted by Brian Williams, the first Florida debate, on January 23 — just two days after the SC primary — was televised by NBC. The audience was instructed not to applaud, which reduced the impact made by the candidates. It probably prevented a lot of boos and cheers for Paul, and made it harder to know who won the debate.
The roles of the candidates seemed to have been reversed. For the first time, it wasn’t Romney trying to be presidential and the other candidates attacking him, rather it was Gingrich who played that role. In my view, Gingrich won, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On CNN after the debate, three left-leaners seemed to think Romney won, that his attacks were effective. I thought Gingrich deflected them and suffered very little damage. There was no doubt that Romney was out to destroy him in the first hour, and to a lesser extent Santorum and even Paul tried as well. There was little post-debate analysis.
Not much new was learned. This morning, Laura Ingraham described the debate as agonizingly boring. The absence of crowd response and the lack of new material, as well as the lack of substantial differences with the candidates probably made the debate average at best. Newt kept his cool, never went off against anyone, so the level of passion was less than in the SC debates.
Romney asserted that Gingrich was kicked out of the House by his fellow Republicans; Newt responded by saying he asked them to vote against him because they needed to get the issue out of the way. I thought the argument was acceptable. Romney also said repeatedly that Newt had lobbied while working at Freddie Mac, Newt denied it, and had released his last contract with them. Newt said he has never lobbied in his entire career.
I don’t believe this debate will affect the polls very much.
That’s about as much as I feel like analyzing for this debate. The debate can be replayed from First Florida Debate