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Matt Rourke, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk during a commercial break at the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla. Confident and forceful, Romney's debate performance scores points with body-language experts.

NEW YORK — The hands came out of the pockets. The gaze was intense. Mitt Romney leaned confidently into the lectern.

Even with the sound turned off, Romney would have stolen Newt Gingrich's debate thunder with a surprisingly commanding and aggressive performance in their latest televised faceoff. That's the judgment of body language experts who watched Thursday night's debate in Jacksonville, Fla.

An expert in political communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, says the debate was a marked change for Romney compared to other recent debates.

Jamieson says Romney's nonverbal cues suggested directness and she notes that, from what she saw, Romney's halting delivery was gone.

Jamieson says Romney took a big step toward blunting Gingrich's contention that he'd be the more successful debater in the general election.