VIDEO Florida CNN GOP Debate Highlights

The GOP nomination debate tonight in Jacksonville, Florida was the last debate before the critical Florida primary. There were important moments for the country and some fun moments as well. Here were some of the issues that played a role in the debate. 

The Media. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich made common cause by criticizing the type of questions being asked by Wolf Blitzer. This is in keeping with their strategy in past debates, and interestingly, Blitzer seemed to get caught up in their strategy, because in a later question, he said "now this is substance," implicitly conceding that his earlier question about the candidates' tax returns was fluff. Also, CNN fact checked a comment Romney made about an ad he ran, which is exactly what the media is supposed to do. Props to CNN for thinking on its feet, keeping order, and intervening in the debate to keep the candidates honest.  

Testy Exchange Between Newt Gingrich & Wolf Blitzer


Fannie and Freddie. These two cutely named government entities were present in tonight's debate, just as in past debates. The pattern by now is predictable. Romney hits Newt for lobbying for Freddie, at which point Newt hits back by saying that Romney profited from Freddie by investing in it. This time though, Romney tacked on a further point, which is that his investments were managed by a blind trust and that he did not control his investments in the way Newt was implying. He ALSO got Newt to concede that he too (Newt) had investments in Fannie and Freddie. Newt sheepishly nodded as Romney continued the tongue lashing. 

Immigration. Immigration was the issue that probably got the longest airtime as the candidates each went through several answers on their policies. Gingrich sounded good on this issue as he ticked through the many tenets of his developed plan, including a citizen panel to decide who would get to stay in the U.S. legally even after coming to the country illegally. After a further back and forth, Gingrich called Romney "anti-immigrant," at which point Romney got very emotional, asking that he not be labeled in that way and asking for an apology as well. He ranted for about two or three minutes, venting a lot of pent up frustration at Gingrich. Many people seemed to be happy to see this reaction as it proved that Romney had convictions after all. He also had a zinger aimed at Gingrich's continued focus on the plight of immigrant grandmothers. Romney said "Our problem is not 11 million grandmothers." Romney instead focused on how to force illegal immigrants to return home by depriving them of work opportunities. 

Gingrich Language of the Ghetto


The Moon. The moon was all over this debate. Gingrich's proposal for a moon base was the source of fun for all the other candidates, even though Gingrich defended himself well by noting that he would set up incentives so that private companies, not NASA, could help us colonize our largest satellite. Ron Paul took the prize for the best comment when he said "I would not go to the moon, but sometimes I think we should put some of our politicians up there." He later followed up by saying that private companies could go to the moon, but that he would "not go just for the fun of it." Ron Paul kept up his simple style and genuine attitude. 

*As a side note, on Twitter, the hashtag #moonpun got kind of funny, i.e. "the tide is changing in this debate #moonpun." 

Ready for the Moon Colony


The better-halves. The answers from the candidates about why their respective wives would make good first ladies were pretty revealing I thought. In the New Hampshire debate, Diane Sawyer asked the candidates what they would be doing on a Saturday night, and I remarked on how not one of them responed by talking about their wives. No one said they would be having dinner with their wives or out at a movie with his spouse. In tonight's debate, the strange relationship of these future leaders to their spouses continued. Ron Paul mentioned his upcoming anniversary, but he and other candidates gave a laundry list of housewifey type traits. Santorum especially seemed awkward starting by saying that his wife was "well-educated." I think only Ron Paul said that he loved his wife (of course the others had different postive things to say, e.g., Santorum said his wife was his "hero.")