Here’s the Nonsense: Debates don’t matter. People are tired of them. And even with them Newt Gingrich would never have a chance at rising again in the polls.
Here’s the Horse Sense: Gingrich is a star speaker and debater. Given another chance to debate on the national stage he would have a very good chance of impacting poll numbers and seeing his numbers rise before Super Tuesday.
Anyone who’s paying attention knows that when you’re competing with Newt Gingrich the last thing you want to do is let him speak, especially in a debate format. It is clear that he is a very skilled speaker and debater. Easily the best of the four GOP candidates left in the race for the nomination.
Santorum and Romney are in the lead. Santorum’s conservative ideas have propelled him into a top spot in polls (the lead in some) and Romney’s attack machine has kept him in the lead even though his ideas are not connecting with voters. The best thing for both of them is to keep Gingrich down. Santorum because he needs the GOP conservative base to rally behind him to put him in a clear lead. Romney because Gingrich’s sheer ability to debate, as seen numerous times before, can do more damage to Romney and do it faster than anything else.
So how do you keep Gingrich down prior to Super Tuesday so that he can’t regain the ground he lost form Romney’s over $15 million spent in thousands of attack ads in Florida? It’s very simple. You don’t debate him.
For Santorum, while he hasn’t gotten into the attack ad business that is about to hit him from the Romney machine harder than he can imagine, you take advantage of Romney’s announcement that he won’t be in the March 1st debate and say you won’t debate either.
For both candidates it’s easy to say they’re too busy with too many states to campaign in before Super Tuesday. But what ended up happening was that not only were they then not put in a position to debate Newt, CNN canceled the debate since it only had the two candidates with the lowest poll numbers left to debate. Whether the debate had happened between Gingrich and Paul didn’t matter. The move on Romney’s part, quickly taken advantage of and joined by Santorum, simply kept Gingrich out of the way and weakens his chance of moving up with voters.
Was it shrewd? Yes, even if it wasn’t planned that way. This puts great stress on the Gingrich campaign even though it is having some significant fund raising success suddenly. And it gives both Santorum and Romney a chance to stay in the lead.
But I wouldn't conclude anything from this yet. This is politics. You never know what will happen next.