You really have to wonder what debate Mark Halperin was watching Thursday evening.
Appearing on Friday's "Morning Joe," the Time magazine and MSNBC political analyst declared former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney the winner of the Republican presidential debate in Iowa, and actually gave former House Speaker Newt Gingrich - who many thought stole the show - only a C+ (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
MARK HALPERIN, POLITICAL ANALYST FOR TIME MAGAZINE AND MSNBC: There were two candidates I think head and shoulders above everybody else: Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. And the overall performance of the others in a pretty ragged two hours I don’t think changed very much.
But Mitt Romney did a great job, and got pretty lucky. You’d think a guy who’s that big of a frontrunner would have been the main target, but as you saw in the opening clips, it really was Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty going back and forth.
Halperin's point about nobody laying a glove on Romney is a valid one, and if this continues, the former Massachusetts governor will certainly benefit.
However, giving Gingrich a C+ was absurd and in my view is indicative of how media members possibly fear the former Speaker more than anyone else on that stage Thursday evening. They know Gingrich would tear President Obama apart in a one-on-one debate, and that's their worst nightmare.
That said, when former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele got his chance to respond, he also took exception to Halperin's assessment:
MICHAEL STEELE: I think there’s a difference between what you, what you hear from the professional political class and the people out there last night on Twitter and so forth who thought Newt Gingrich did phenomenally well. I thought Newt Gingrich planted a flag last night. I think he acquitted himself well in many respects, substantively as well as pushing back on, you know, the whole idea that we’re going to come together and not do talking points and the first line of questions is right out of the talking point box.
Indeed. For those that missed it, here was Gingrich's marvelous exchange with Fox News's Chris Wallace:
Getting back to Steele's assessment:
STEELE: I was just looking at the grading there in terms of how people lined up. I thought that Newt did a solid B performance last night. In fact, if I had to pick a winner, I would give him that because the expectation was so low in that regard.
Quite so. In fact, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell tweeted the following halfway through the debate:
At the debate's conclusion, Bozell gave his Twitter followers his scorecard:
When informed of Halperin's assessment of Gingrich's performance, Bozell responded, “C+?? That’s ridiculous. He stole the show.”
I couldn't agree more.
*****Update: Read Bozell's scorecard.