While many supporters of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hoped he could rekindle some of his earlier magic during Thursday night’s Florida GOP primary debate, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume was unequivocal: He failed to put himself back in the driver’s seat he occupied after the South Carolina primary.
On Thursday’s “On the Record” on Fox News, Hume explained to host Greta Van Sustren that Gingrich’s failure to capitalize on a few key moments has rendered him unable to shift momentum back from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“This was a night when Newt Gingrich needed to change the trajectory of things and have the kind of night he had in South Carolina,” Hume said. “I don’t think he did. … When he made that criticism to Wolf Blitzer on the questions, the thunder of that had been stolen ahead of him by Rick Santorum, who was the first to lodge the objection — which was why Newt turned to him and said, ‘Do you want to try again?’”
“So I don’t think Speaker Gingrich got the kind of mileage out of his performance that he got in the two debates in South Carolina,” Hume continued. “Furthermore, to add to the point, think of how well Newt did with the indignation in calling others out in the debates in South Carolina. Tonight, early, it was Mitt Romney calling the speaker out on calling him anti-immigrant, something which the speaker had backed off on in one ad. And it seems that Romney scored on him heavily there, and gave Romney a chance to put the speaker off guard. I don’t think the speaker had the night he needed.”
Hume said he didn’t think this election would swing on Obamacare like the 2010 midterm election did. Instead, he said, it would be a referendum on President Barack Obama’s entire record — something on which Gingrich would find it hard to capitalize.
“If people decide, come fall, that they are prepared to make a change, they are going to look at the Republican candidate and decide whether this is somebody they feel comfortable with, as whether they feel this is an acceptable replacement for Barack Obama,” Hume explained. “And the one that in their eyes is the least extreme may well be the one they turn to — which is, I think the Republican Party can’t fool around with Newt Gingrich, who is a fireball.”
“He could — he might be terrific in a debate,” he added, “but my sense about it is that the one thing Newt Gingrich nationally has never been in all of the arch of his career since he was speaker and beyond: He has never been popular with the public at large.”