Joe Lhota may have won the first GOP debate by a single shot. Newt Gingrich's John King moment in the SC primary debate has turned into a tactical game changer for candidates seeking the spotlight. The most memorable moment of the Wednesday morning forum, sponsored by Crain's New York Business, came ahead of the closing statements, when Crain's columnist Greg David, in a question posed to Mr. Lhota, called former Mayor Rudy Giuliani a "jerk."
The question brought a murmur from the audience, reported Chris Bragg. "The city was called ungovernable, unmanageable; and unlivable," people at the time believed, Lhota responded. "The city thrived again. Don't ever be fooled into thinking that transformation is permanent," he added, before turning to call out the moderator. "For you to disparage the 107th mayor of the city of New York with the word that you used…” he said, cut off by applause.
Afterward, Mr. Lhota told reporters that Mr. David's question was not appropriate. "Using a pejorative to describe Rudy Giuliani in a forum like this is unfortunate," said Mr. Lhota. "But that's what columnists do, they have the right to say whatever they want, and Greg did say whatever he wants. I think he was wrong."
In which Mr. David responded in a statement: "In retrospect, jerk was the wrong word because I offended some members of the audience and I should not be doing that. Just as important, the word allowed Joe Lhota to blast me rather than answer one of the important issues of the campaign—does he present the return of Rudy. So I failed on two counts."
A snap audience poll done after the debate showed Lhota as the winner of the debate with 42 percent, followed by Catsimatidis at 26 percent. Allon and Carrion tied at 12 percent and McDonald trailed at 8 percent.