Newt Gingrich has risen to the top of the Republican presidential field largely because of his debating skills — a point Gingrich himself made Monday, while arguing why he's the right candidate to face President Obama next November. He sustained that debating momentum in Tuesday night's CNN presidential debate on foreign policy, with most commentators declaring Newt the winner. His rivals, however, immediately pounced on his self-described "humane" idea that the U.S. should grant legal, non-citizen status to longtime undocumented immigrants who've forged family and community ties in the U.S. Did Gingrich's first debate as frontrunner confirm him as a "worthy adversary" to Mitt Romney, or will pushing "amnesty" for illegal immigrants reverse the gains he's made?

Newt just made it a two-man race: "Gingrich's dominant performance" put him head and shoulders above all rivals but Romney, says John LeBoutillier at Fox News. But Newt won the night by being clever and entertaining, while Mitt, as usual, was "B-O-R-I-N-G." Gingrich might get stung by "being basically pro-amnesty for long-term illegal immigrants," but it's more likely he'll soak up the supporters of "worn-out acts" Perry and Herman Cain. By February, this will be a Romney-Gingrich race.
"Newt's surge continues"

Gingrich just killed his campaign: The debate's big takeaway is that "Gingrich is sticking his neck out on immigration, in a way that has already resulted in the decapitation of Rick Perry," says Edward McBride in The Economist. Newt showed that "he can sound presidential when he sets his mind to it," but he apparently doesn't understand that a "surprisingly humane and sane" immigration stance is a deal-breaker for the GOP base. Sorry Newt, but it's "time for [Rick] Santorum's surge."
"Live-blogging the Republican debate"

Win or lose, he's thinking big: Gingrich started his immigration pitch with "controlling the border," placing him not "far at all outside the Republican mainstream," says Kyle Wingfield in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But "kinda-sorta endorse[ing] amnesty" is clearly the kind of "forward-thinking maneuver" his non-Romney rivals failed to pull off. If it works, he'll bring independents and Hispanics "under the Gingrich tent" without losing conservatives. Tune in to talk radio to see if he bet right.
"Newt Gingrich’s immigration gambit"