TODAY | January 27, 2012
>> is nbc's political director and chief white house correspondent and david gregory is moderator of "meet the press." good morning.
>> good morning.
>> david , did newt gingrich have the debate he needed now with just four days to go before the florida primary ?
>> i don't think he did. if you're the romney campaign you're feeling good. this was a critical moment for romney to do as well as he did last night. just a couple days before florida republicans vote in the primary. he was aggressive. he turned around attacks on him by speaker gingrich . you put it together and you have romney trying to neutralize his own weaknesses and chip away at the strengths gring gingrich brought into the primary, particularly the debates. gingrich 's campaign, the sense of fight all predicated on how well he debates and romney showed up last night.
>> you mentioned bob dole . this is an elder statesman, former gop presidential nominee. bob dole didn't mince words. he said, i have not been critical of newt gingrich , but it is now time to take a stand before it's too late. hard linen who served with newt in congress endorsed him and that speaks for itself. gingrich has had a new idea every minute and most were off the wall. david , ouch. what is the party prepared to do to take down gingrich ?
>> it's the revenge of the establishment. elected officials, congressmen, senators, governors and those who worked with dwing rich saying, we know this guy, he shouldn't be president. this is an effort to florida to say don't do this. don't throw the campaign into disarray. we know gingrich and he can't be trusted. gingrich will say, i make them uncomfortable. but romney is making a powerful case to florida voters.
>> let's talk about the nbc news/ wall street journal poll, chuck. it was taken before the debate but shows gingrich with a sizable national lead over romney . it also tells us where he's getting support.
>> it goes right to mitt romney 's weakness. when you look at the poll you almost look at it as this is where mitt romney is not able to consolidate conservatives. gingrich has become, like everybody before him that wasn't named mitt romney that surged to the top he's rallying the base of the party. very conservative voters, southerners, tea party members. he's got giant leads on mitt romney on this. now, some of this could shift. where does it go? what was fascinating last night is while mitt romney was aggressive and finally sent the message to some skeptical republicans that he's got the ability to fight at a debate, santorum probably had the best night because he seemed to be able to make a conservative argument and really did box in romney on health care for the first time we have seen at any debate. romney ended up making a defense of the health care plan that sounded just like president obama . that's a victory in florida for romney . why? every santorum vote he gains comes right out of newt gingrich .
>> the fat lady has not sung. who's on "meet the press" this weekend is this.
>> we'll talk to senator john mccain and david aaxelrod from the obama campaign .