In the last post I linked to a Steve Koracki article about Newt’s flat performance last night.
The atmosphere for the debate the Peacock network hosted in Florida Monday night was a marked departure from what we saw in South Carolina last week. Whereas Fox and CNN amped their live audiences up beforehand and encouraged boisterous responses during the proceedings, the NBC opening was comparatively sober; this time, it didnâ€™t seem like it had been farmed out to a team of NBA producers. When moderator Brian Williams opened the telecast, the crowd was silent and respectful, and it remained so for virtually all of the next 100 minutes. …
… on Monday, there was no energy in the hall for Gingrich to feed off of, and no one on the media panel willing to step up and play his foil. From the very beginning, his responses were jarringly flat and unfocused. When an unusually sharp and focused Mitt Romney came after him hard in the debateâ€™s early minutes, Gingrich seemed unsure how â€“ or even whether â€“ to engage him. And when Romney dismantled Gingrichâ€™s defense of his lucrative Freddie Mac work like a seasoned prosecutor, the normally loquacious former speaker was literally left speechless.
Newt has been bragging about he’s the best Republican to face Barack Obama in a debate. But what we’re seeing is that Newt really isn’t a very good debater. As Kornacki says, in the South Carolina debates “all he was doing was playing to persecution complex of a fired up, rabidly partisan crowd, whose euphoric response rubbed off on like-minded viewers at home.” It may have been great political theater, but it wasn’t true debating.
Now Newt is saying he won’t allow the television debate hosts to “control” the audiences.
â€œI wish in retrospect I had protested when Brian Williams took [the crowd] out of it because I think itâ€™s wrong,â€ he said. â€œI think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what theyâ€™ve done in every debate.â€
Gingrichâ€™s debate performances are widely viewed as having propelled him to an overwhelming victory at Saturdayâ€™s South Carolina primary.
His fiery performances often came at the expense of the debate moderators for questions he deemed inappropriate, and the conservative crowds often rewarded the former House Speaker with applause and even a standing ovation for his attacks against the media.
But NBC asked the crowd to hold their applause until the breaks, and moderator Brian Williams didnâ€™t offer any opportunities for Gingrich to go after him.
As a result, some of Gingrichâ€™s attacks that might have energized his supporters at previous debates seemed to fall flat. At one point Gingrich even seemed flustered, and paused in silence to collect his thoughts.
â€œWeâ€™re going to serve notice on future debates that we wonâ€™t tolerate â€” weâ€™re just not going to allow that to happen,â€ Gingrich continued. â€œThatâ€™s wrong â€” the media doesnâ€™t control free speech. People ought to be able to applaud if they want to. It was almost silly.â€
Does Gingrich think he would ever be allowed to debate Barack Obama in front of a fired-up, hand-picked right-wing audience primed to applaud and hoot and holler? Is he nuts?
When Kennedy and Nixon debated in 1960, they were in a studio with no audience at all.
Imagine President Obama and Newt Gingrich in a studio debate with no audience. Heh.