You don't see standing ovations at debates very often. The exchange here won Gingrich a standing ovation (which was edited from this).
I watched the debate from start to finish, the first I've watched from beginning to end (mostly because I considered Michelle Bachman to be insufferable) and I believed it was Newt's night.
I doubt Gingrich was able to close the gap between him and Mitt Romney by enough to win the nomination or even South Carolina. But, certainly his voice was heard, and it was his best performance in the campaign so far.
He capitalized on Ron Paul's extraordinary weak answers on foreign policy. He spanked Santorum on the economy, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Surprises came from Rick Perry, who made no egregious errors and was another crowd favorite with a couple of quick-witted swipes at Romney, Santorum and Paul. He also got crowd approval from his promise to secure the Mexican border within a year of taking office.
Romney's performance was second to Gingrich's in my opinion. But his answers about his experience in the private sector and the release of his tax returns were evasive and inadequate. His foreign policy answers were spot on. He appeared more presidential than he has throughout the process.
I believe that Santorum and Paul had the worst performances. Paul stumbled and stuttered through his answers on foreign policy, some of which were answered by boos from the audience. Santorum was on a milktoast attack and his targets were Gingrich and Romney. Too much time was spent on what was wrong with Gingrich and Romney and not enough on what was right with Santorum...probably because there isn't much right with Santorum.
Based on audience response in Myrtle Beach last night, Gingrich would win the South Carolina primary if the vote was taken today, with Romney a close second. I doubt that will be the actual case. Romney will win the primary. Gingrich will likely come in second. But, I do believe that the field will be significantly changed after the South Carolina vote. I think it will be time for Santorum and Perry to go home. Paul should have left after Iowa and New Hampshire.
That will leave a field of candidates that won't be the best of the best. Huntsman's lack of money and organization probably took the best guy out of the race. However, I believe that either Romney or Gingrich could beat Obama. Gingrich's ideas are bolder than Romney's. Romney wins the character battle with Obama. Paul doesn't have a prayer.
South Carolina is an important primary. It really sets the tone for the rest of the race.