Florida Republican Debate Highlights: Mitt Fends Off Newt, Ron Paul & Rick Santorum Shine

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Thursday's Republican presidential debate, the 19th in this election cycle, saw Mitt Romney tried to fend off Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul and Rick Santorum shined.

Romney came out swinging fast and when Gingrich attacked, he hit back. Much more aggressive than in the past, he's going all-in to win Tuesday's Florida primary.

In that respect, he likely succeeded in blunting some of Newt's momentum in Florida, as Gingrich was flatter Thursday than in some of the past debates he's owned.

He had some nice zingers and applause-garnering policy proposals, but not a proverbial "knockout punch" like he delivered en route to winning in South Carolina.

Gingrich received praise for his harsh attack on debate moderator John King last week and tried to double down on his strategy of attacking the host to build support.

It backfired a bit last night. Wolf Blitzer stood his ground when Gingrich would not answer a question about his apparent truce over the issue of Romney's tax return.

He called the question "nonsense" and suggested they talk about "issues that relate to the governing of America," but Wolf - and later Mitt - got the better of him.

Rick Santorum, meanwhile, had probably his strongest debate performance in a year, pointedly criticizing both Gingrich and Romney on a variety of issues.

The fourth candidate running, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, would probably be called the winner of the debate if the mainstream media would take him seriously.

The 76-year-old won applause for nearly every response on monetary policy and civil liberties, his signature issues, as well as delivering some of the best lines.

Asked if he would release his medical records, given that he'd be the oldest person elected president if he were to win, Paul said he would "obviously" release it.

"Because it's about one page, if even that long," the libertarian said, challenging the other candidates to a 25-mile bike ride in the Texas heat to prove his point.

Gingrich went on to praise Paul's vigor and said "he's in great shape" and would be "quite ready to serve." Paul even put Blitzer on notice for "age discrimination."

Whether Thursday night changes the trajectory of the race is unclear, but none of the four prospective Obama challengers show signs of fading away anytime soon.

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I buy all my camping gear at Sports Authority and thats why i believe Mitt Romney should be the next President of the United States.

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DR.RON PAUL FTW! you think more people would realize why the media hates him so much! Because he speaks nothing but the truth!

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I will stand in front of bullets for Dr. Ron Paul! He is my champion!

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Everyone should vote for Mitt Romney because he worked for Staples and Sports Authority.Paper clips and Nike shoes are what national heroes should be made of.

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Ron Paul is the only candidate offering cuts rather than mere lip service. Take notice Grand Old Party! His supporters are loyal and will not vote for any of the others in the general election. There is only one conservative candidate running for the republican nomination. Dr. Paul or none at all!!

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Oviously Ron Paul is the wisest choice for president:-)

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Thank you for writing this nice (and fair!) article! As a Ron Paul supporter, we don't see many of these....Ron Paul 2012

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Legalize Freedom, Restore the Constitution!
RON PAUL for PRESIDENT 2012!

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The American people are not going to vote for someone named "Newt" for POTUS. He gets the nomination - Obama re-elected.
The majority of voters in the US are independents. They are going to decide who is elected.
Dr. Paul has 20+% of the entire voting population (D, R and I) locked up already, but it's not the man ... it's the message.
As more folks take the red pill and realize what's been done to their birthright ( life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ) - like NDAA, SOPA, PIPA, the "Patriot Act" - the good Doctor's prescription for what ails us is going to increase, exponentially.
You, the MSM, can either be a part of this historic (re)awakening, or you can be left behind.
Peace ... out.