CNN's Gloria Borger has been covering Newt Gingrich for decades. (I still recall her in 1989 calling him a "frisky chipmunk," as in he "resembles a frisky chipmunk scurrying from idea to idea and storing too many bad ones.") But Borger on Tuesday night concluded he had a good debate.
He was 'the good Newt, the smart Newt" and not the "negative nasty anti-media...Newt." It's true that Gingrich didn't pull out a trademark "J'accuse" against Wolf Blitzer. Perhaps Newt would say he's now seen "the good Gloria, the smart Gloria, not the the negative nasty anti-Newt Gloria." David Gergen also applauded Gergen for breaking from "orthodoxy" and embracing the "humane" side of immigration.
The post-debate panel on CNN agreed Newt was the winner, and John King suggested he had the most to lose.
BORGER: I say Newt Gingrich had a very good debate. The thing about Newt Gingrich, I've covered him for a really long time, because you never know who's going to show up, right? And it could be the good Newt, the smart Newt, the full-of- ideas Newt, who I think we saw tonight. Or it could be the negative, nasty, anti-media, down...
ARI FLEISCHER: Well, wait a minute on the anti-media stuff. Hold on.
BORGER: Newt Gingrich. And I think tonight we saw the first Newt Gingrich, the more positive Newt Gingrich, who sort of had a vision for -- and took on Ron Paul, I think, and the Patriot Act debate. It was very, very interesting.
And we saw the intellectual Newt, the professorial Newt. But he was appealing, which is something I don't think he's really been before. And I think it's probably because he's more relaxed, and he's doing better in the polls, and people like him. So I think he was more likable this evening.
A little earlier, CNN analyst David Gergen said Gingrich's position on immigration -- despite the bizarre conflation of a law-abiding illegal alien -- is right where the American people are:
GERGEN: Look, I have a bias. Good for him. He broke with the orthodoxy. He did have to take a more humane position. And by the way, this is what most Americans want. They want to distinguish between those people who have been here a long time and who have let their families stay versus those who have been here a short time. And you depart from that, as you said.
But just to go back to the politics of it, yes, I think he's going -- I think he'll take a hit in the conservative community. He will also get credit for being willing to say what he believes. And I think with the broader public, John, he's just now, for the first time -- Americans who are not Republicans, independents are thinking, might Newt Gingrich actually be the candidate? With a lot of those people seeing the humane side of Gingrich tonight, I think was a plus. You know, it's part of -- I kept thinking about this is a man who's also asking for redemption and is seeking redemption in his own personal life.
How is Gergen squaring that circle? Forgiveness for illegal aliens naturally follows forgiveness for Newt's adultery during the Year of Lewinsky and the three marriages?