|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
At Monday’s debate in Tampa, Fla., it was Mr. Gingrich who pulled his punches, adopting a subdued approach and declining opportunities to attack the other candidates. His strategy, like Mr. Romney’s a week earlier, perhaps looked good in the playbook: the initial polls after South Carolina had shown Mr. Gingrich surging to a lead in Florida, and perhaps Mr. Gingrich thought he could look more like a front-runner by adopting a less combative and more magnanimous approach.
But Republican voters, once more, did not react well: Mr. Gingrich has since lost considerable ground in the polls and now trails Mr. Romney in Florida. It is not necessarily clear that the debate was the only cause of this. Nevertheless, Mr. Gingrich entered Thursday evening trailing Mr. Romney in the polls and needing a win in the second debate.
Instead, Mr. Gingrich seemed to be playing for a draw. He passed upon several opportunities to push back at Mr. Romney, despite being expressly presented with opportunities to do so — on health care, on Ronald Reagan’s legacy, on immigration, and on Mr. Romney’s personal finances among other issues. The only exception came when Mr. Gingrich alleged that Mr. Romney had invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — but this was met with a strong rebuttal by Mr. Romney, who seemed well prepared for the attack.
I strongly suspect that Mr. Gingrich will extend the losing streak for this passive debate strategy. There aren’t any post-debate polls yet, but the betting market Intrade might provide a preview of them. By the time the evening was done, Mr. Gingrich’s chances of winning Florida had plummeted to 10 percent from 25 percent in the market, and his chances of winning the Republican nomination had dropped to about 5 percent from 10 percent.