The GOP debate in Tampa: Full-court press coverage
Mitt Romney enters the fray: Mitt Romney has enhanced his image as a front-runner by staying above the fray during a run of Republican debates, but Monday he sharply abandoned that approach to unleash a withering attack on the rival who threatens his claim to the nomination. He instantly invoked Newt Gingrich's tumultuous tenure as speaker of the House in the 1990s, saying he had to "resign in disgrace." He tried to link Gingrich's work with the mortgage giant Freddie Mac to the foreclosure crisis. He reminded the national TV audience that not long ago Gingrich teamed up with Democrat Nancy Pelosi to call attention to global warming. "I learned something from that last contest in South Carolina, and that was I had incoming from all directions," Romney said when asked to explain his aggressive transformation. "And I'm not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire." Story here.
John Romano column: He felt the need to fight, and I suppose that makes sense. Mitt Romney had been embarrassed in South Carolina and was tumbling in Florida, so he woke up Monday morning with menace on his mind. He attacked Newt Gingrich for a terrible deed, and then accused him of an awful thing. The details aren't as important as the apparent desperation behind the strategy. This was an aggressive Romney. An indignant Romney. A defiant Romney. Which meant you could now add fighter to the list of personas he has tried on. Personally, I'd prefer to finally see an authentic Romney. Column here.
Terri Schiavo case comes up: In the last half hour, Monday's Republican debate turned to the Terri Schiavo case as a discussion of government's role in making a medical decision about the life and death of someone in a persistent vegetative state. Story here.
The protests: Lining the streets of the University of South Florida before Monday's Republican presidential debate, the crowd thickened with hundreds, bull horns blaring, signs held high. One read, "Ron Paul not for sale. End the Fed." Steps away, "Keep the Fed. End Ron Paul." One sign, "Throw 'em all out!" Across the street, dozens, supporting the Dream Act. Story here.
PolitiFact weighs in: The Republican debate in Tampa turned into a sparring match Monday night as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney attacked each other on their records in political office. PolitiFact kept score.
Slideshow from the event here.