Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 5, 2007
POLITICS: Tonight's GOP Debate
My quick thoughts, to be supplemented later?
Well, everyone will have their own take. I thought, having caught only parts of the earlier debates, that this was an excellent debate. I wouldn't presume to declare a winner, but my guy Rudy had a very good night, benefitted from his command of the details and gave a heartfelt answer in defending his performance as Mayor during and despite the ugly eruption of his personal life. But the debate covered a lot more ground than just that, for all the participants. I personally thought Hunter and Huckabee both auditioned well for the VP job, although I know some people found some of Huckabee's answers on the war off-putting.
In fact, other than Tancredo (who stammers too much and who doesn't have a real role to play with Romney and Hunter carrying the immigration-hawk banner) and Brownback (who has been largely marginalized to his pet issues and isn't aggressive enough in this forum), most of the candidates played fairly well to their pre-existing images: Romney worked at exposing the fissures between himself and the others (notably his sustained attacks on Rudy on the "sanctuary cities" issue), McCain was both grave and wisecracking in turn, Huckabee was eloquent and got off some great lines as always, Hunter was serious and tough, and Paul was shrill but made sure the others had to answer his unique perspectives. (I didn't much like Romney's performance but that's mainly because of the issues I had with him going in). As a field they work a lot better with 8 than with 10, and hopefully that field will continue to narrow - my vote would be for Tancredo to pull out next.
Probably the best line of the night was Huckabee's response to Paul on the idea that Iraq was hurting the party at the polls ("Even if we lose elections we should not lose our honor"). Chris Wallace sounded like he had it in for Paul, going after him with a zeal rarely applied to marginal candidates (e.g., asking if we should take our marching orders from Al Qaeda on withdrawing troops from the region).
Finally, I have to think that Fred was a loser with the people who watched this - unavoidably, perhaps, but we need to get him out there and see what he's made of in these things. Fred needs less tell and more show. The only candidate who really gave a full preview of his line of attack against Fred was Rudy, who lumped him in with Hillary, Obama and Edwards in lacking executive experience (a distinction that drew a smile from Romney). If nothing else, Rudy's willingness to throw a punch at a guy who wasn't even on the stage was vintage Giuliani.
UPDATES: I've decided that Paul reminds me of this guy.
Hunter also had a good line about how the Democrats make their scandals chairman.
Rudy will be held to that promise to go to Iraq this year.