GOP Contenders Hold No Punches at Presidential Debate

Obama may be the real winner of the  Republican nominating race.

Posted: 02/23/2012 10:50 AM EST

Republican presidential frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum dominated Wednesday’s presidential debate, exchanging verbal punches throughout the night, but did anyone actually prevail? Here’s BET.com’s take on the winners and losers and some of the event’s best hits.


Loser:

Rick Santorum: Instead of cementing his frontrunner status, Santorum spent the night defending his record, sometimes getting so wonky that Romney at one point said, “I didn’t follow all of that.” His strongest counterpunch was delivered when he told the former Massachusetts governor to “not go bragging” about balancing his state’s budget when he was required to do so by law. Time and polls will tell how much momentum he’s lost.


Winners:

Mitt Romney: From the start, Romney, sometimes with the aid of unlikely wingman Rep. Ron Paul, relentlessly tore into Santorum. And while he may not have done much to improve his image, he successfully raised questions in voters’ minds about whether Santorum’s really “The One.” Romney also gave Santorum a “be careful what you say” moment. "First of all, let's not forget that four years ago, well after Romneycare was put into place, four years ago you not only endorsed me, you went on Laura Ingraham and said, 'This is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him.’"


Newt Gingrich: Poor showings in the last two debates have hurt Gingrich’s campaign and favorability rating. Wednesday he managed to stay above the fray as his rivals pounced on each other and didn’t get outrageous, which could help him going forward.


Ron Paul: The Texas lawmaker really sunk his teeth into Santorum, calling him fake and his “politics as a team sport” theology the real problem with Washington.


President Obama: As the GOP candidates duke it out, hurting themselves in the process, Obama may not ready to pop Champagne corks, but watching his own poll numbers rise as the economy begins to show signs of life, are certainly reasons to cheer.


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(Photo: EPA/ROY DABNER/Landov)

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