Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Key moments in the CNN debate

From the CNN Political Unit
updated 2:13 AM EST, Wed November 23, 2011
  • Gloria Borger said "the more positive Newt Gingrich" may be more appealing to voters
  • "Typical things that are red meat aren't working this year," said Ari Fleischer
  • David Gergen: Gingrich's "more humane position" on illegal immigration will help in long run
  • Rick Perry has done a poor job of conveying his ideas to people, said Dana Loesch

Washington (CNN) -- The Patriot Act, immigration and securing the borders, and whether the United States should provide aid to Pakistan were some of the biggest points of contention in Tuesday's CNN National Security Debate.

Here's how CNN's analysts and contributors saw winners and losers and key moments in the debate.

CNN analyst Gloria Borger on Newt Gingrich's debut as front-runner:

"You never know who's going to show up: It could be the good Newt, smart Newt, full-of-ideas Newt, who I think we saw tonight. Or it could be the negative, nasty, anti-media stuff.

CNN GOP debate memorable moments
Bachmann hits Obama on Keystone decision
Perry slams Obama over military
Perry: You must secure the border

"And I think tonight we saw the first Newt Gingrich, the more positive Newt Gingrich who sort of had a vision and took on Ron Paul, and the Patriot Act debate.

"It was very, very interesting -- the intellectual Newt -- but he was appealing, which is something I don't think he's really been before. I think it's probably because he's more relaxed, and he's doing better in the polls and people like him. I think he was more likable this evening."

CNN contributor Ari Fleischer on the race's dynamics:

"When you look at all of these debates, is the Republican Party supposed to nominate the most conservative and this year against Barack Obama the biggest outsider.

"But who's leading? The biggest established figures -- Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Who is not getting traction? The one who is taking the toughest, most conservative positions, Rick Perry -- no-fly zone over Syria, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, send Congress home, cut their pay. Typical things that are red meat aren't working this year.

"The biggest thought during the debates, Newt Gingrich, propelled himself back from the depths. It will be a fascinating open primary for Republicans.

"Another debate, another good night for Newt. But the trend here is those who have fallen behind are not coming back up so the question is when the music stops, who is going to be in the not-Romney chair? 78 percent are not locked-in. A lot of time to go."

CNN analyst David Gergen on whether Newt Gingrich's position on allowing long-term illegal immigrants citizenship will hurt him:

Cain calls CNN's Wolf Blitzer wrong name
Republican candidates debate security
GOP candidates debate Iran strategy
Gingrich: U.S. look to Chile's reforms

"[It does hurt him] probably in the short term. But I will have to tell you, in the long term, i think it may not.

"He broke with the orthodoxy. He did have to take a more humane position. They want a division between those who have been here a long time and let their families stay versus those who have been here a short time. The politics of it, yeah, he'll take a hit in the conservative community. He'll get credit for willing to say what he believes, I think, with the broader public.

"He's just now, for the first time, Americans who are not Republicans, independents are thinking, might Newt Gingrich be the candidate? With a lot of the people seeing the humane side of Gingrich tonight, I think was a plus."

CNN contributor Dana Loesch on Rick Perry's muddled message:

"I don't think it's the ideas that failed, I think it's perhaps the vehicle in which they were delivered -- forgetting the third department that you would cut necessarily isn't helpful. I do think he's coming back from that.

"But that being said, I think if those ideas had been delivered in a Newt Gingrich way -- authoritative, aggressive, dare I say confrontational -- I think it would have gone over a lot better, and we'd see more support from those results.

"You have to be able to convey your ideas to people and that's what Rick Perry hasn't been been doing in the beginning."

Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news at CNN's Election Center. There are race updates, a delegate counter and much more.
A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
updated 1:41 PM EST, Thu November 8, 2012
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders continue to sharply disagree over the key issue of whether top tax rates should be raised to help resolve the looming crisis.
updated 2:24 PM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
In a historic turnaround, the ballot box is showing America's shifting attitudes about same-sex marriage.
Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
updated 4:19 AM EST, Thu November 8, 2012
The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
updated 9:27 AM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.
updated 7:34 PM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
Democrats will retain their control of the Senate after winning several closely contested races on Tuesday.