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2012: 'Live by debate die by debate.'

The Miami Herald: Thursday night’s debate was supposed to be the debate that would prove critical in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Yet, there was no clear winner or loser. Polls show the race is exceedingly close, but Romney might be surging amid a statewide ad blitz. Yet the debate lived up to its nickname: The River City Rumble. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum played the roles of foils, chiding the frontrunners for bickering and, at times, not answering questions. This was also the debate where Florida took center stage. The problems in the nation’s largest swing state are the problems of the nation writ large: Unemployment, home foreclosures, immigration. Cuba, Israel policy and space travel got some airtime, too.

GINGRICH: The Washington Post: Cheers filled the air as Newt Gingrich’s campaign bus eased out of the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express. He had just made an astonishing vow: By the end of his second term as president, the U.S. flag would once again be planted on the moon. America, he said, would have a permanent lunar base. Gingrich’s speech Wednesday created big headlines Thursday on the Space Coast. People here have been eager to hear some launchin’ words. The question is whether this is science fiction.

“The fact that he originally chose not to go after Romney on the Swiss bank accounts issue was a moment of weakness for Gingrich,” CBN’s Brody writes. “You can’t rail on Romney on the trail and then come up lame on the debate stage. Furthermore, he made Romney look even better because it gave Romney a chance to essentially say, “Man up” and don’t run and hide.”

Newt Gingrich’s former Republican colleagues in the House are more than a little nervous about the prospects of sharing a ticket with him in November. They think he’d run weakly in the suburbs. And among women. And independents. And especially in the Northeast. To some of them, he’s a disaster in the making, a potentially combustible nominee who could, in a worst case scenario, cost the GOP its newly minted majority. The concern is serious enough, one freshman Republican told POLITICO, that on the bus ride back from the House GOP retreat in Baltimore last week, Gingrich’s electability was the prime subject of discussion among nearly a dozen members — many of them first-termers.

NPR headline on Gingrich’s debate: “Live By Debate, Die By Debate.”

Duke Cunningham likes Gingrich. Cunningham, a former member, who pleaded guilty to “conspiracy and tax evasion” in 2005 “in one of the biggest federal bribery scandals in recent memory," the Voice of San Diego writes, “Cunningham tells Gingrich in an electronic message he says he sent to the candidate last month that his fellow prisoners, and their families, support Gingrich."

ROMNEY: "Mitt Romney, forced to prove his resilience after a stinging loss in South Carolina, is showing why the so-called Republican establishment thinks he has the best discipline, organization and campaign smarts to challenge President Barack Obama this fall," AP writes. "The former Massachusetts governor turned in his best debate performance yet Thursday night, putting chief rival Newt Gingrich on the defensive from the opening minutes in Jacksonville, Fla., and never letting up for two hours. It was a striking change after two South Carolina debates in which Gingrich revived his own campaign with fiery populist and media-bashing zingers that made Romney appear pallid in comparison."

The Boston Globe: Though Mitt Romney made his reputation as a private equity investor, his tax returns show the presidential candidate has a large portion of his wealth in an even more aggressive corner of the investment world: hedge funds.  

As others noted, NPR writes: “One reason [for Romney’s improved performance] is that Mitt Romney looked at the debacle of those South Carolina debates and made a crucial adjustment. He brought on a new debate coach. And not just any debate coach, but Brett O'Donnell, who in recent years raised Jerry Falwell's Liberty University to the top ranks of college debate. Not just the top ranks among religious schools, but the top ranks, period. More recently, O'Donnell had advised Michele Bachmann. Say what you will of that candidacy, what life it had emanated largely from her early debate performances in the summer of 2011.”

A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ TV poll shows Romney up 5 in Michigan. The results: Romney 31, Gingrich 26, Paul 14, Santorum 10, Undecided/refused 19.

SANTORUM:  "Rick Santorum’s sporadic Florida campaign has cancelled his scheduled appearance in Jupiter on Friday. Santorum was going to hold a Tea Party rally in Abacoa. Santorum will instead spend Friday morning being interviewed by three Florida radio stations, including NewsRadio 610 in Miami at 7:50 a.m.," The Palm Beach Post reports. "Santorum is then leaving the state for a Friday night fundraiser in Pennsylvania. He will also prepare his tax returns before heading back for one final day of campaigning in Florida."

The Wall Street Journal on Foster Friess, the financial backer of Super PAC Red, White, and Blue Fund: “Mr. Friess, 71 years old, said he plans to fund television advertisements for Mr. Santorum in other states in February and March. That could help keep Mr. Santorum competitive against his better-funded rivals and is one reason the fight for the Republican nomination will likely run at least through Super Tuesday on March 6.”