Florida's primary election is just a week away and Monday night's GOP debate was the first chance for a surging Newt Gingrich and a slumping Mitt Romney to show how they'll act in the wake of their new roles.
And if it continues in the same vein, things aren't going to be pleasant between the two Republican hopefuls — certainly not for the next seven days. And it also could be a windfall for President Barack Obama, the Democrat who will face whomever the Republicans choose to nominate. His name was noticeably absent from the debate Monday night, while Romney and Gingrich grappled with each other and their records.
Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Romney, perhaps, was most direct, questioning Gingrich's character and leadership ability, reminding the audience that Gingirch "resigned in disgrace" after being elected Speaker of the House in 1994.
“You are looking for a person who can lead this country at a very critical time,” Romney said, according to The New York Times. “The speaker was given the opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994, and after four years he resigned in disgrace.”
Gingrich, though, in a bit of a role reversal, refused to address what he said were Romney's inaccuracies. Though he did say Republican voters weren't looking for a candidate who would preside over the decay of America, he mostly seemed to indicate in his new role of front-runner, he would be taking the high road on attacks.
“They’re sending somebody to Washington to change it, and that requires somebody who’s prepared to be controversial when necessary," Gingrich said in the Times.
Romney also went after Gingrich for his role as a paid consultant to mortgage giant, and bailout recipient, Freddie Mac. Romney called it lobbying; Gingrich took particular offense to that.
Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, the other Republicans still standing, spent long stretches of the debate waiting for their turn while Gingrich and Romney traded barbs. Both tried to assert their continued place in the campaign, though neither did so particularly successfully.
The candidates will debate again — on Thursday night in Jacksonville. The Florida Primary is Jan. 31.