The Republican primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday night was a slugfest, with Newt Gingrich leading off the ballgame with a home run off CNN starter John King, who tried to slip an "open marriage" fastball by the former House Speaker.
That is, if you were to borrow a baseball analogy--which the media has been all-too-eager to do lately.
"I think Gingrich saw a fastball coming," CNN's David Gergen told Anderson Cooper. "And in front of this audience, he smacked it right out of the park."
Gergen wasn't the only pundit mining the national pastime for quips.
"Newt did knock it out of the park," Ari Fleischer said later on CNN. "Well, I think, putting it in baseball terms, Mitt Romney is a doubles hitter. He hit more doubles tonight, but he's not hitting enough doubles to win South Carolina. Rick Santorum had his best night yet -- he hit a triple."
Fleischer wasn't done.
"Newt swings for the fences, and he connected tonight," he said. "Also, when he swings, he can have some spectacular whiffs. And we don't know from day to day if he's going to hit one or strike out."
Meanwhile, Politico's Maggie Haberman's top takeaway from Thursday's debate sounded a lot like Gergen's:
1) Newt Gingrich saw the pitch coming
Gingrich was looking for a fastball and proceeded to knock it out of the park. Yes, it's a sports cliché, but it's a fitting one here. Gingrich knew full well that CNN moderator John King would ask him about his ex-wife's claims that he had sought an "open marriage" over a decade ago. And CNN made a clear choice to open with it, knowing that would make the network a part of the news story.
John Baldoni of CBS' "Money Watch" thought Newt cleared the fences, too: "Newt Gingrich hit a home run the other evening in South Carolina when he took moderator John King's question about his former wife's allegation of his request for an open marriage and turned it into a media bashing moment."
Boston.com's Garrett Quinn put it another way: "Gingrich has found a way to turn what should be a single into a home run. Tonight, though, was a grand slam for him."
Of course, Thursday's debate was not the first time the media likened Gingrich to a GOP Babe Ruth. Earlier this week, Ed Rollins said Gingrich smacked a home run during Saturday's Fox News-hosted debate, turning around a question about race from Juan Williams. "I think it's put him back in the game," Gingrich said. "He looks strong."
A blogger for Norcalblogs.com took the baseball analogy even deeper:
Gingrich hit home run after home run, but his biggest hit came at the expense of Juan Williams. Juan pitched a race baiting fastball that Newt hit with the sweet spot of his bat. When he finished, the crowd erupted [in] the first ever standing ovation at a debate. Fox News was forced to take a commercial break to calm things down. It wasn't his only big hit, but it was his best.
On Thursday, Fleischer added: "To use the baseball expression we started with here, I think we're into the fourth inning with too many players on the field, maybe three. So people thought maybe the game would be over here after three races, three innings, and Romney would win it. If he wins in South Carolina, that's the likelihood. I don't think that's going to happen."
Then again, it's anybody's ballgame.
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