The Fix Live: South Carolina debate winners and losers

Jan 20, 2012

The Fix discusses who came out on top and who flopped in the South Carolina debate.

Read: South Carolina debate: Winners and losers

Good morning everyone. Yesterday was the single busiest/best day in politics in a very long time. And tomorrow is the South Carolina primary!

Let's get right to your questions. Soundtrack for this chat: "The Rip Tide" by Beirut.

It looks like Gingrich may win South Carolina. If we wins Florida, is the race over? He seems to be very popular now, even among liberals. Is a Gingrich win an Obama nightmare - will we see a landslide victory as we did with Reagan vs. Mondale?


I agree with your first sentence. Gingrich is clearly the momentum candidate in South Carolina and could well nip Romney tomorrow.

As for the rest, well, no. Gingrich lacks any formal organization and it's still not clear whether he cares to build one. Same goes for raising money.

Romney, no matter what happens tomorrow in South Carolina, is still a very strong favorite to be the nominee.

If Newt wins S.C, the race will go through March 6. If Romney wins S.C., the race is over.

Mitt Romney easily had the worst week. He still has trouble answering the release of his tax records question

Worse than Perry who dropped out of the race?!

I agree with you that Romney still doesn't have a good answer on tax returns. Check out what I wrote about it on The Fix last night:

Did Rick Santorum help himself yesterday by going after both Romney and Gingrich for their past support of the individual mandate?

Not sure.

I thought Santorum had the best night of any one of the stage but I don't know if it makes any difference.

Santorum at this point looks like a Newt spoiler in South Carolina. It's hard to see Santorum winning S.C. or even finishing 2nd.

I'll be up front about that - I think he's a mediocre to poor journalist. So I wasn't entirely upset he got his head handed to him. respect for him would have gone up many magnitudes had he returned fire on Gingrich and called him out forcefully and unapologetically as a hypocrite. But he's not allowed to do that is he?

TOTALLY disagree.

John King did what he was supposed to do -- ask the question that everyone wanted to know the answer to.

Gingrich did what he had to do too; use the question to slam the media etc.

But, that's not John's fault. If I was in the same position, I would have done the same thing.

I was blown away by Santorum's performance last night. Was this a fluke? The guy said he likes to fly under the radar but I thought he was just making excuses for his poor debate performances / poll results before late December. Now, I am starting to feel like he was just playing rope a dope with us all. This primary season is SO WEIRD.

I think Santorum has been an underrated debater throughout the entire primary race.

He can get under his rivals skin and really push home a point. (Newt as unpredictable being a good example.)

Santorum's problem is that he occasionally veers into petulant territory, complaining about not getting enough time to talk etc.

He largely stayed away from that last night -- and it accrued to his benefit.

Gorilla Cillizza... So we now have a situation where Santorum "won" Iowa, Romney won New Hampshire and Newt is leading in South Carolina. While Santorum is slipping in polls, what does this tell us about the future of Romney's lock on the nomination. Do we have a few more months of trading primaries between Newt and Mitt? Are we headed to a brokered convention?

Anything is possible, obviously.

I still think that Romney is BY FAR the best positioned to win the nomination given his financial and organizational advantages.  

Gingrich is better able to channel the frustration/anger that GOP primary voters feel and it's why he is on the comeback trail...again.

But sustainability is always Gingrich's problem. And it is likely to be again -- even if he wins S.C. tomorrow.

Does Chris want to chat today? No, but he will.

To quote John King: "Maybe this will be fun. Maybe it won't"

I don't know if you saw "Up All Night" last night, yet those who did will understand this question: Is it an appropriate open marriage for a husband to watch "Friday Night Lights" with another woman?

Mrs Fix watched it and brought it up. It's SO true. It's like emotional cheating.

I just want it noted this won't be the first time a Georgian used a scorch earth policy against a Massachusettsian invading South Carolina.


What does it tell about our system of choosing a President that the state with the most focus as a caucus state is unable to tell us who was the leading vote tallier on caucus day? Maybe it is telling us this whole system is archiac and needs updating. Just a suggestion.

Not Iowa's greatest moment.  Couple that with the fact that the winner of the Ames Straw Poll finished 6th in the Iowa caucuses and Iowa's got some explaining to do.

In 2008, Obama seemed to get stronger in the general election due in part to the long primary, where voters go to see him more. Given the GOP's swing to the hard right, do you see the GOP as viewing a long primary as a benefit or will it hurt them in the general by making it tougher to move back to the center?

I wrote a column on how a longer primary might be better for Republicans! It's here:

Will Newt really get away with his philandering ways because he is a Republican. There seems to be two moral codes in the political stratosphere.

Voters in SC, at the moment, seem willing to overlook it. Not sure if that continues but it is true today.

Seems like Newt is having some success in playing the ABC interview as an example of a malicious mainstream media missing the point on the issues. Will that play with voters tomorrow, or will Newt's "baggage" hurt him?

I honestly don't know. Which is what makes tomorrow's vote so incredibly interesting.

Is Chris Cillizza funny? Or really funny?

Yes. It is an active debate right now in the Twittersphere...along with the debate about whether I look more like George Clooney or Bradley Cooper.

Wait, neither of those debates have ever happened.

How excited are you that the Four Horsemen are going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame?

HUGELY. I have my four fingers up right now. 

You should have listed John King & CNN as another debate loser. King got smacked around in satisfying fashion by Newt in the best moment of all the debates. And -- obviously -- the majority of the audience agreed with my assessment as they gave Newt a SO. The bias of the MSM and its enabling of the politics of personal destruction were exposed, and that was the corresponding "winner" of the debate.

I just don't get this.

Would you have preferred John NOT ask about the marriage thing? You don't think it's relevant when someone's ex wife says he pushed for her to have an "open marriage"?

I think John HAD to ask the question. And, Newt's response was very carefully calibrated to take advantage of the anti-media sentiment that you are voicing.

But, again, the mainstream media didn't make the allegations against newt. That was Marianne Gingrich.

If Newt wins South Carolina, where do you see the race? Is it still Romney's to lose? Can Newt win Florida with that momentum?

Romney still a favorite in Florida because of organization and money.

And, in NV (Feb. 4), AZ (Feb. 28) and MI (Feb. 28). And in Super Tuesday (March 6).

Which is why I still think Romney is an overwhelming favorite to be the nominee no matter what happens in SC tomorrow.

Romney heard boo-birds when he said that he won't release his tax returns. I can't remember him getting booed in a debate this year, is this the first time? And will CUA field hockey win the conference next year?

I think this is the first time the boo birds came out for him.

As for CUA field hockey, I think we are the early favorites...

Sarah Palin or Rick Perry? And why?

Palin, I suppose.  But not by much. Not convinced either matters.

Ron Paul delivered the most substantive answers while the other three clowns were left bickering with each other. How about some integrity in reporting next time?

Ah yes, the Ron Paul crowd.

Look, the reality is that for most supoporters of Paul, he wins every debate he participates in.  Why? Because he is voicing opinions not widely shared within the broader Republican party. If you like those opinions, you like Paul.

But, in last night's debate Paul was mostly an afterthought. He didn't engage the other candidates and they didn't engage him.

Hundreds of Republican officeholders must know Gingrich personally. And yet hardly any have endorsed him, while many are eager to attack him every chance they get. Can you explain this?

Yes, they don't much like him would be my guess.

Gingrich has always been more of an executive type than a legislative type. He has big ideas and he wants to execute them his way. That causes him to run roughshod over people who don't agree with him. And those people who are run over don't much like it.

Hi Chris -- Thanks for taking questions today. It seems to me that, while the term "open marriage" raises a lot of eyebrows, we aren't learning anything about Newt that we don't already know. In other words, the cake is already "baked" and you either like him or you don't, and the second Mrs. Gingrich's remarks don't really matter. What do you think?

That's what Gingrich is banking on. That there is no new news -- at least from the perspective of SC voters -- in the Marianne Gingrich stuff.

I just read Glenn Kessler's fact checking on the debate. He points out, as he as done previously, the incorrect statements made by the candidates. It's time for a debate moderator to finally say to one of them: "Hey, that's wrong and you know it."

Glenn's reporting is TERRIFIC. But it's hard to do it in real time. Give moderators a little bit of a's a very tough job.

Hasn't the lame-stream media now clearly revealed itself not only as biased, but as trying to be a player and a referee in the same game? Where were they when Clinton perjured himself regarding a sex scandal? They wanted him left in office as our president. Where were they when JFK was chasing every skirt he could find? Isn't this just another example of how the media is trying to do the work of the DNC and that they blindly follow the same ideology as President Obama?

"Lame stream media"!

Sarah Palin for the win!

Mitt is HIDING something in his tax returns. Can we ask him for the long form, PLUS all his backup paperwork? We need to see it NOW!!

Thanks, Speaker Gingrich. Always good to see you on the Fix chat.

Hire an unemployed journalist (there are plenty!) to read him annoying questions at every campaign stop. Then Newt can yell at him. It would be like a Harlem Globetrotters - Washington Generals matchup.

That would be SO awesome.

Just a plant in the audience asking controversial questions that Newt can then get exercised about.

This is a GREAT idea.

We're already being deluged with Romney ads here. Has Newt made a buy here yet? What about Santorum?

And, ladies and gentleman, THIS is why Romney is still the favorite no matter what happens in SC.

Romney is the only candidate with the financial wherewithal to be advertising in Florida. And the primary is 11 days away.

Why is it that Ron Paul can continually advocate absconding from a presidential/leadership role and the media never calls him on it? Is it because they know he doesn't have a prayer of getting the nomination? I am just sick to death of hearing from Paul supporters about how we are too stupid to "get" Paul's ideas.

Criticizing Dr. Ron Paul is tantamount to treason. Just saying.

Why is the Obama campaign running an ad responding to these charges in January? Is it just the old adage, "never let an attack go unrefuted?" Or are they really worried about this issue? Or just obsessed with Super-PACs?

I was VERY surprised that the campaign's first ad was a response to Americans for Prosperity AND focused on Solyndra.

What does that tell us?

1. The Obama campaign is worried about Solyndra

2. They think they can make the Koch brothers a real issue in the election.

Was it me or was he on the verge of tears during his debate close last night? Seems like he's a little rattled emotionally from the unexpected primary competition which is saying something for him.

He also always gets emotional when talking about his dad. It's really interesting.

Is Romney still the favorite in Florida, based entirely on organization and money?


Hi Chris, With all these debates all over the country are you finding any time to check in on the rest of the Fix family? Little Fix asking "hey, who is this funny looking guy?"

Doing my best. I have a very understanding family.  Though Fix Jr asks me every morning "Daddy, why you going to work?"

Overrated? Aren't voters bombarded with ads, newspaper articles, and debates to keep them informed about the candidates and when to vote?

Sure. But making sure they actually vote on a primary day is different.  I think organization still does matter. I am not sure it matters as much as it did before the rise of cable Tv and the Internet though...

"The first five minutes of the debate were Newt's finest hour in the race. " Yelling at a questioner who brings up Newt's hypocrisy and all-around smarmitude qualifies as a "finest hour?"

Talking about how it relates to him winning a primary in South Carolina.

So, yes.

Do you think Romney is too "wooden" to win in a general election against Obama?


Devil's advocate: Romney's plain-ness is actually good for him because it forces the spotlight mostly onto Obama, which is the best way for Republicans to win.

Just another way of thinking about it..

Chris, of the various individuals who looked at the Republican primary and decided not to run, who's kicking themself the hardest right now? I'm thinking John Thune.

Mitch Daniels and Mike Huckabee HAVE to be kicking themselves too.


Do you think Hillary will really step out of the political arena as she has said she will do?

I do. I have no reason to think otherwise. But, you never know when it comes to the Clintons. Ever.

What are the odds that the GOP convention in Tampa will be a brokered convention?


I hope not if you chose Perry. He had little to lose going into this week as he low position was already set in stone. Romney, on the othe hand, had the nomination in his grasp only to see (1) Mitt partly grab it with his debate blustering playing well to SC audiences and (2) Mitt fumbling it (hope that doesn't bode ill for the Pats) with his unbelievably amateur responses to the tax issue. I'd give you the worst week if you made the mistake to pick Perry.

What if Romney wins SC tomorrow then?  He is the nominee. Hard to say he had a bad week...

It looks like Tebow may win South Carolina. If we wins Florida, is the race over? He seems to be very popular now, even among liberals. Is a Tebow win an Obama nightmare - will we see a landslide victory as we did with Reagan vs. Mondale? (sorry, had to mock the dumbest question I saw in quite some time)

Thank you. A thousand times yes when it comes to Tebow.

I'm behind the times, but Romney didn't win Iowa? How did that happen and why does Iowa have any delegates to the RNC in Orlando this summer?

Looks like he lost by 30 votes or so....

Is the country ready to be bombarded with "frankly" and "fundamentally" for three hours at a time?

Um, no.

I find it hilarious that Gingrich always says he is going to participate in  these Lincoln-Douglas debates with Obama.

The president and his team would NEVER agree to that. and would networks play a three hour debate? Um, no.

Will he drop out if he finishes way back in SC? If that happens, will the conservatives (minus the Ron Paul contingent) coalesce around Newt so that he could win FL?

That HAS to be Newt's hope. For that to happen though, Newt needs to win SC.

It seems to be that whole "open marriage" issue has backfired on the MSM and liberal camps, as demonstrated by the standing O that Newt got when he went after John King. I guess the thought was that conservatives would be shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you -- by what happened so many years ago. Even more than Newt's response, the audience's response clearly indicates that this issue was absolutely no legs.

Newt understands his audience. Cast the MSM as somehow responsible for his ex-wife's comments and make the debate less about the merit of what she said than about peoples' dislike of the press.

Newt's opening rant came across to me as the temper tantrum of a spoiled child who blames anyone but himself for his mistakes. Later I watched the media analysts declare (almost universally) that this was Newt's finest moment. What?!

Chances you are a South Carolina Republican voter: <5%

So you're OK with Newt teeing off on questioners, but not letting them respond? His exchange with Juan Williams, with it's not-so-subtle race-baiting, was despicable.

I am not "ok" with it. I don't judge the relative "rightness" of what any of the candidates do. I try to just assess how what they do plays politically.

I'd stick my neck out to ask about an open marriage if it involed Mrs. Coach from FNL. Even my wife thinks she's hot. Mind you, not that she's open to an open marriage...


Ric Flair is borrowing money from Arn Anderson to get there.


At this point in the race, do you think the Obama campaign's designs on Arizona are more or less realistic than their targeting of Indiana and North Carolina in 2008 at the same point in the race?

About the same.

It's possible that Obama can win AZ. But it's not likely. The immigration issue there has turned almost all white voters into Republicans...

How effective was Santorum's charge against Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House?

Polls close in SC at 7 pm tomorrow night. We'll find out then!

they did decide to air them two days before a key primary for Newt just as he was rising...


Not sure if you were watching the same debate I was. The part about tax returns was brutal: "Will you do what your dad did and release the last 12 years of returns"..."NO." Boos. You didn't think that was the key moment of the debate?

I said in my winners and losers that Romney lost on that answer. So we were watching the same debate. Whew. I thought I was watching the wrong debate.

Have you watched any episodes yet? Please start with season 1 if not. Starting with season 2 would be like only looking at the general election between Obama and McCain in 2008, while ignoring the Obama/Clinton primary showdown.

Apple TV has been secured. Downton Abbey Season 1 is in the on deck circle.

Have to watch the first two "Idols" first...Mrs Fix and I are late converts to Idol.

The best incarnation of the Horsemen was : Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham and Ric Flair...loved JJ Dillon as the manager

Leaving out Lex Luger? Are u insane?

Better wrestling group: 4 Horsemen or NWO?

Is there any endorsement out there right now that would be a gamechanger?


I would say that if Jeb Bush endorsed Romney before Florida it might help make the former MA governor even stronger in the state.

The governor of the great state of Texas, in announcing his strategic retreat, left the door open for another run. After this debacle, do you think that's remotely possible? Also, what do you hear about how Perry's performance has affected his political standing back home? Thanks.

No. And I can't imagine him running for governor again in 2014. Of course, I am pretty sure Rick Perry doesn't care what I think.

Are you writing that Sarah Palin doesn't matter? What!?! Time and time again since Election Day 2008, live chatters have written that she doesn't matter and the Fix has told us she does in certain circle. Christ, if you doesn't matter in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, where could she matter? Has the day finally arrived where the Fix agrees that Sarah Palin doesn't matter?

I don't think her endorsement matters much. She has a group of people who really still like her. But it's not that big a group.

If you could moderate 3 Senate debates this election season which one's would you choose? I'm assuming you'd be game for Massachusetts and Virginia. Which would the third one?

MA for sure and VA for sure.

Maybe NV? (Vegas is nice.)

Newt can't claim that fidelity and morality are not issues when he and other Republican nominees have made "family values" cornerstones of their campaigns. You can say that you've asked your Lord for forgiveness. But when the second wife (whom he cheated on with his current third wife) says that he never looked her in the eye and asked for hers (and she's not selling a book), that's an issue of integrity (or lack thereof).

And this is what Romney has to hope SC voters believe.

I don't like Tom Brady because he plays for the Patriots... Since the general media consensus is that he is a very capable NFL quarterback (and non-existent coverage that some people don't like the Pats), I can allege mainstream media bias, right?

Absolutely. The media has made Tom Brady good, after all.

Oh, could you explain that Clinton sex scandal thing? I don't think anyone covered it. Thanks!

Right. That was pretty much uncovered.

"If Newt wins S.C, the race will go through March 6. If Romney wins S.C., the race is over." Oh dear lord please let Romney win SC. I can't take another six weeks of this.


It's been an amazing race so far. Why would you want it to end?

You need to hand out an MVP award to a commenter after every debate chat. Maybe you could incorporate a championship belt instead.

I do like that idea...mostly because it would allow me to expense a championship belt.

You asked: "You don't think it's relevant when someone's ex wife says he pushed for her to have an "open marriage"?" My response: No. It happened years ago. People's marriages are their own business. And even if happened last week, the personal lives of politicians don't make any difference to me, whether it's Clinton and Monica or Newt and Callista. What matters to me are jobs, tax rates, jobs, foreign policy, and jobs. Did I mention jobs? I think you vastly over-estimate the interest of most voters on these matters.

And this is what Gingrich has to hope voters in South Carolina think.

It takes 60 senate votes to change a light bulb. There's no way Obamacare gets repealed, and Dr. Paul was the only candidate to admit that. Is forthrightness worth nothing any more?

Dr Ron Paul speaks the truth. Always. Even when he stays silent.

How far can Gingrich go with his mantra of yelling at the media in all these debates?

If it aint broke, don't fix it.

I would like you to explain your logic a bit further when you suggest Ron Paul lost last night's debate. While the three stooges threw mud at each other for most of the debate, Ron Paul answered questions directly and intelligently.... how does this equate to a loss?

He was a NON factor. He answered the questions, yes. But did he persuade ANYONE who was not already with him. I bet not.

How worried are Republicans about a third-party run? What would they be willing to give him in order to prevent it? Can't imagine that they give an inch on foreign policy.

I think they should be very worried. Every general election poll I have seen has Paul taking between 15-20 percent in a general election vote -- and ensuring Obama wins.

"Where were they when Clinton perjured himself?" Well, as I recall, they were reporting on it day after day, in gruesome, embarrassing detail.

Yeah, that does ring a bell...

While Iowa did not officially include the results from eight precincts, are there any unofficial results floating around as to what happened in any or all of these eight precincts?

I saw one analysis that said the 8 precincts would have enlarged Santorum's winning margin. But who knows?

Why do broadcasters (especially) keep addressing people by titles of offices they no longer hold -- "Speaker" Gingrich, "Governor" Romney, "Senator" Santorum? They're all losers and it really rankles me to hear them addressed by those titles. Can't a simple "Mister" suffice?

Oh, I think it's just a respect thing.

When I talk to former Members of Congress, I refer to them as "Congressman" or "Congresswoman".

I also demand to be referred to as "Washington Post blogger extraordinaire Chris Cillizza".

There has been one caucus, one primary, and one upcoming primary. THere are still 47 states to go plus the territories. So, why are so many talking heads already declaring Mitt Romney the nominee?

I think you mistake an analysis of who the favorite is with declaring a nominee.

There's NO question Romney is still the favorite for the nomination. But Hillary Clinton was the favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and lost.

These things change. And they are unpredictable. It's why I love politics. But it doesn't mean that you can't say who is ahead right now...



Of the four remaining GOP contenders, which one is the Obama team hoping will prevail?

They would least like to face Romney.

I think they would prefer to run against Newt rather than Santorum but not sure they spend much time thinking about it because they believe strongly Romney will be the nominee.

Are we headed for a Patriots Giants Super Bowl?

Let's hope.

They're both hot. My husband and I both think so.

And they have/had the most believable marriage ever on television.

I hate the American public for not watching FNL.  Seriously, people?

Easy Chris, there are still some dirty, liberal hippies here in Arpaio Country!

Ah, ok. Thanks for the clarification :)

Fair enough. The buzz is about how Newt called out a reporter (hurrah!) who asked about his propensity for infidelity (oh... right). Isn't this ultimately a zero-sum narrative for Newt?

Maybe. But it makes him a semi-sympathetic figure on the eve of a critical primary. Which is a net plus for him.

Most surprising aspect of Perry's campaign: How little he understood the world outside Texas. Knew nothing about national issues. Didn't comprehend how his actions were interpreted by a broader audience, e.g. threatening violence against Ben Bernanke. You would think that a decade as governor of the second most populous state would have given him a little exposure, but no...

Agree. His ideal job would be president of Texas.

Not a fair argument. Both revolutionized the um, sport. One had Flair, one had Hogan. But, any group that can get away with a member having a bald spot and still be a superstar must win.


For some, Newt's personal life may not be relevant. But when you spent the better part of the last 25 years talking about the moral decay of the US being related to the liberals & you can't keep your own powder clean, its a tad bit hypocritical.

The answer!

If Ron Paul were to drop out of the race, would his votes go to Romney or Gingrich?

Some for each. But lots of Paul's votes would just go home. Paul's voters believe in Paul, not the broader GOP. Which is what makes him dangerous as a third party candidate.

I always thought you referred to yourself as "The People's Champ"

No, I refer to myself as the Paper Champ. (cc: Clubber Lang)

You and Chris Hayes perform "California Love." Who is Tupac and who is Dre? Explain.

I prefer a "Watch the Throne" metaphor. He is Kanye I am Jay Z.

Ron Paul doesn't always change a light bulb, but when he does, he does it in the dark. He is... The most interesting politician in the world!


Ron Paul doesn't answer questions. He tells you how it is.

And, scene!

Stay tuned to The Fix today and tomorrow for all the latest and greatest from the South Carolina primary.

Polls close at 7 pm tomorrow night and we are covering it all!


Does the media have a right to discuss candidates' personal lives? Chat about this topic with Brad Hirschfield at 2 p.m. ET

And at 1 p.m. ET, Post fact checker Glenn Kessler will discuss fact checking the South Carolina debate, including who was the least and most honest.

Join in!

In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics and he writes "The Fix," a politics blog for The Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
Recent Chats
  • Next: