Late Debate Reactions
McCain, Giuliani Strong. Romney, Not So Much
By Mark I Posted in 2008 — Comments (46) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
I just finished watching the debate in its entirety on youtube. Late, I know, but I am on something of a vacation this week.
First, let me say that for as much as I think Stephanopolous is a smug little jerk, I think he ran the best debate/joint appearance yet. Perhaps it was because there is so much at stake with the Ames straw poll on Saturday, but Stephy just seemed to get more out of the candidates than we have seen so far. Now to the reviews.
The most striking thing from this debate is how badly Gov. Romney performed. His dust up with Sen. Brownback was defensive in the extreme and his reluctance to go after Mayor Giuliani immediately on the heels of going after Brownback made him seem wishy-washy. Second, I don't think I heard Romney disagree with anything anyone else said, except for Congressman Ron Paul. He was for every policy position that received applause from anybody on stage. If the debate was held in front of a NARAL-Pro Choice America audience, he might have become pro-choice again. What a panderer! Basically, he played not to lose and it showed. He definitely hurt himself. And why on Earth did ABC keep cutting to his wife in the audience? Were they trying to humanize him? I counted four cutaways to Ann Romney during candidate Romney's speaking time. When the network covering the debate gives the candidate's wife as much camera time as the candidate, it can't be billed as a good performance.
Sen. McCain was very strong. His performance breathed some life back into a campaign on life support. He was presidential, confident, contrite (he referenced the Keating Five), and disdainful but in a good way. He had an air of "I know what to do and how to get it done, and I don't have time for your stupid questions, George." that served him well. If he can duplicate this performance in the next debate in September, he'll be in it at least through Iowa and New Hampshire. I still don't think he wins, but he bought himself time.
1A in the strength department was Rep. Duncan Hunter. Hunter has almost solidified the Vice-President slot for himself. No other candidate on stage should even be considered as a possibility. Hunter is the man. He simply doesn't have the charm and star power to be the nominee, but man does he have gravitas. Buckets of it. He is the Cheney of 2008, but with 55 electoral votes in his back pocket. A Giuliani/Hunter ticket might win California.
Speaking of Giuliani, he performed well. He was not as strong as McCain or Hunter, but he didn't have to be. Giuliani is not in Ames for the straw poll, and he is the national front runner. As the darling of the coastal GOP, he needed to appear comfortable in the nation's middle and avoid any damaging gaffes. He succeeded, but he did more. In his salvo against questioner David Yepesen over the issue of raising taxes to pay for infrastructure, he showed the quality that could carry Giuliani to the nomination--he fights. The war on terror is the overarching issue of the 2008 campaign. Democrats want to surrender to varying degrees. Giuliani wants to fight. It's personal for him. In his unwillingness to accept the premise of Yepsen's question, that tax increases increase revenue, he showed again that he is not afraid to challenge liberals and Democrats on their ideas and to do so with command of the facts and belief in conservative principles of governance. He may be closer to the liberals on abortion than most Republicans. But with a war on, people may just be willing to overlook a potential commander-in-chief's ideological shortcomings if they think he can win it.
Gov. Huckabee came back to Earth in this debate. He was unable to get off any of the folksy one liners that endeared so many to him in the first two Republican debates. His focus on health care is becoming something of an obsession. People just don't want a president to tell them what to eat and how much to exercise. Plus, he toyed with the, "if we weren't spending so much around the world (I heard Iraq) we could fix things here at home," meme when asked about the Minneapolis bridge collapse. That removed him from my second look list.
Brownback was strong early in the Romney exchange, but disappointing afterwards. It's hard for the second tier candidates because they just don't get as much camera time as the leading candidates. So they have to use the time to say or do something memorable. Brownback just didn't come through. He'll be competetive in Iowa but will not survive New Hampshire.
There isn't anything positive to say about anyone else.
The GOP had better remove Ron Paul from any future debates. As long as he is on stage, he will be the mainstream press mascot for the "GOP division on Iraq." He doesn't contribute anything of substance and he really and truly has no chance of winning anything except an internet poll. It's time for a forced banishment. Let's see how many supporters he can draw when he has to make his ridiculous statements from the sidewalk across the street from the theater.
Final score: McCain wins becuase he stayed alive. Giuliani runs a close second for reminding everyone of his biggest strengths. Hunter is the sentimental third. Romney is the big loser. He still may win Ames and even Iowa because of his organization on the ground and his personal wealth, but he demonstrated to anyone paying attention that he is not a serious national candidate. Huckabee lost any ground he gained from earlier strong performances; a victim of expectation, perhaps. Brownback is treading water and there isn't much from anybody else. It may be time to winnow the field. Saturday should be the beginning.