Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Debate Reactions

Since I was watching the Lady Vols softball team forget the fundamentals of softball at the NCAA Championships (maybe they caught whatever it was that ailing Vanderbilt's baseball team), I had to catch the replay of the GOP field's debate in New Hampshire.

For the most part, it was a yawner (which probably wasn't helped by the 2:00 A.M. finishing time). Nothing in the way of exchanges. Few good questions, and even fewer good answers. It was certainly less entertaining than the last debate in South Carolina.

Here's how I rate the performances:


1) Mike Huckabee - Again (that's three times in a row for those who are keeping score), Huckabee looked the most comfortable, didn't get rattled by dumb questions, and looked to connect with the conservative base. Some pundits thought he didn't answer the questions about evolution versus creationism very well, but I thought he did fine. No one has lit into Huckabee's record of taxation while Arkansas Governor nor his history of appointments that (at the best) seem conflicted on their face. If Mike can continue to go untested on those during these debates, he'll keep performing well and looking the most presidential. Well, at least he will until the field expands...

2A) Rudy Giuliani - Rudy gave a much better, more confident performance than he did in South Carolina. He still tried to duck a few questions, but not nearly as many as in Columbia. It appears that he knows that he can dominate the field as is (that is, those currently declared candidates at the debates) if he gives the type of performance that he is capable of giving. Of course, Christian conservatives might not forget that God/lightning kept Rudy's answer on abortion from being heard. That's the kind of thing that might stick with voters.

2B) John McCain - Whereas McCain was savaged in South Carolina, he was much better "up North." He showed compassion and conviction, even if his answers on immigration and Iraq might not win him support within the GOP base. His reaction to the question from the parent of the fallen soldier in Iraq was quite touching, and he managed to inject some humor into the night when God was apparently trying to smite Rudy Giuliani with a lightning bolt and by responding in Spanish to immigration foe Tom Tancredo. McCain needs more performances like this if he is going to stay viable in this campaign. Otherwise, he might want to start thinking about what it would be like to be a VP.

4) Tommy Thompson - Thompson gave a better accounting of himself last night. He spoke with conviction and gave better answers (as good as one can give in one minute), in contrast to the limp noodle he portrayed in the last debate. A good night for this Thompson, although it was still a good ways behind the three candidates above.

5) Duncan Hunter - It's almost like Wolf Blitzer forgot that Hunter was there sometimes. When the California Congressman was allowed to speak, he gave good, concise answers that appealed to the GOP base. He also stung Romney at the end by tying him to Ted Kennedy (expect more of this from all candidates until Romney's goose is cooked). Like Tommy Thompson, this isn't enough to propel him into the top tier of candidates, but not a bad night for Hunter.


1) Ron Paul - If I had a guess, I would think that the smackdown unnecessarily delivered by Rudy Giuliani against Ron Paul might have taken some of the starch out of the Texas Congressman. He didn't look as fiery tonight, and he (like Tancredo and Gilmore) was almost the forgotten man in the room in New Hampshire.

2) Jim Gilmore - Gilmore scored some points on Iraq, but that was about it. Like Paul and Tancredo, it wasn't a good night for the underdogs. Unlike Paul and Tancredo, that's two debates in a row of sub-par performances for Gilmore.

3) Tom Tancredo - The Colorado Congressman didn't score too many points outside of the immigration issue, even letting McCain steal some of his thunder when it probably would have benefited Tancredo to go after the Arizona Senator on the issue. Tancredo accounted himself well in the Palmetto State, but he seemed to lose some momentum in New Hampshire.

4) Mitt Romney - Romney tried to handle the questions regarding faith deftly, but I have a hard time believing that real evangelical Christians are going to buy what he's selling. While those answers were technically correct, there is more to say about the Mormon faith than what Mitt spoke of. Where Mitt was really stung was at the beginning of the night, when he tried to say that U.N. inspectors were not in Iraq prior to our invasion and dropped the ball on tactical nuclear weapons as an option against Iran (I couldn't quite tell, but he seemed to answer both "yes" and "no" - did he flip-flop in the middle of his answer?). Romney also looked unprepared for the question from the audience regarding ads in Spanish, where he somehow seemed to come off as weak on immigration (in contrast to earlier in the night, when he appeared much stronger). Given good performances by Giuliani and McCain, the entrance of Fred Thompson, and new polling numbers from Rasmussen that show him trailing both Giuliani and Thompson and only leading McCain by 1-point and getting blistered in the latest McLaughlin & Associates poll (Giuliani - 24%, Thompson - 18%, McCain - 17%, Romney - 7%), Romney's window of opportunity may be closing.

5) Sam Brownback - Brownback gave good answers on some of the social issues (as he should), and those would resonate with conservatives if Mike Huckabee wasn't showing up to these debates, too. Plus, I'm not sure if Sam will be able to recover from previously saying that he would support a pro-choice Republican nominee for the White House. Sam's no sellout, but he sure looked like one after that debate gaff.


From a Christian's perspective, did you not believe that Dr. Paul provided the only truly moral answer? Preemptive nukes? Every one of these candidates with the exception of McCain and Paul are trying to out tough-guy each other, are happy to torture and happy to use NUCLEAR WEAPONS on people. It is not within the realm of reason for a Christian.
Amen on Huckabee. I think this was his best performance yet. He's definitely one of the most articulate and amiable of the bunch. My problem is with Wolf and the questioners. Huckabee's initial response to the evolution question was great:

"It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I’m asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States."

I think he could have left it at that, though he continued admirably. It seemed to me that there were a lot of dumb questions; not as bad as MSNBC, but still CNN's political prejudices came across loud and clear. I was happy to see some open hostility toward CNN. Sometimes it seemed like the candidates were attacking Wolf more than each other! Giuliani laid into Wolf on how Petraeus' report will be reported, Hunter laid into him on how CNN reports on the border fence, and it seems like there were a few other retorts to CNN.

Speaking of Hunter, I'm disappointed he hasn't had more traction. I used to live in his district, and he is widely loved by the families in the Pacific Fleet's home port. I think we have a strong VP field developing... Hunter, Huckabee, maybe Gilmore. I don't think any of the first tier could play second fiddle, though; maybe Romney or Thompson but definitely not Giuliani or McCain.
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