Newt ripping John King's jawbone off and beating him to death with it has become the signature moment of the debate. But just as important was Mitt's complete flubbing of his tax returns.
Both Mittens and Newton have a problem heading into tomorrow's crucial (and really first significant) primary. For Mitt, he is suffering from exactly what he says he wants to avoid: the drip, drip, drip of information about his finances. The 15% (or lower) tax rate is bad enough. But simply the phrase "Cayman Island bank accounts" is incredibly toxic. As Gingrich put it: "If there is something bad in there, we should know it before we select our nominee." (Or words to that effect.)
Meanwhile, Newt has become the Exhibitionist candidate. Rather than offer a mea culpa about his past marital infidelities ("I have caused pain in my marriage for which I am truly sorry."), he pivots and attacks the press. And then he releases his tax returns in the middle of the debate. Brilliant!
People have been saying that Perry's endorsement won't mean much. First of all, I expect the results to be close enough that even a 2% bump could be huge. Secondly, Romney is not the "inevitable" nominee because people like him. He's the "inevitable" nominee because he has the backing of the establishment and all the money. But he no longer "won" Iowa and if he loses South Carolina and continues to whine whenever he's asked questions about his immense personal wealth, he could enter a death spiral in Florida.
Of course, after Florida, there is a long gap before we have any more significant primaries. Romney will be able to recover and probably still win.
But a wounded front-runner is never a very good thing. And Romney is bleeding all over the place right now.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I know a few people who are worried that if Newt gets the nomination, he might end up President. Therefore they prefer Romney. Fie upon thee!
Newt has the favorability of colo-rectal cancer. Outside of the GOP base, he's as electable as Mullah Omar. Newt Gingrich heading the GOP ticket will mean that roughly 73% of women will vote for Obama. (The "Crazifaction Factor of 27% knows no gender constraints.) "Newt For President" means a Democratic House.
Romney allows people to plausibly deny that they are voting for the Nihilism Party that currently controls the House (and practically the Senate). Gingrich shoves the nastiness of today's GOP in everyone's face.