Monday, October 22, 2007

Debate Review & Round-up


The only President I saw on stage was John McCain. The "tied up" line was the best of the night. Standing next to most of his colleagues (especially Giuliani) McCain is starting to actually appear calm, possibly the first time many people would accuse him of being so.

Mike Huckabee continues to exude a certain charm that I think is slowly acclimating itself to GOP voters.

For some reason Rudy Guiliani seems to be getting better in these kinds of venues, but I can't really determine why. His rhetorical and oratorical tics are increasingly grating. Of all the major candidates he seems to stutter the most often and he uses inflection and emphasis in strange and inconsistent ways when he wants to draw attention to specific words or phrases. His use of repetition seems almost entirely dependent on crowd reaction. I focus on how he says things because content-wise he's really not saying much of anything at all.

Ronald Reagan. He was totally awesome. We get it, already.

Hillary Clinton: Treating her like the front-runner, even by trashing her, only plays right into her hands. Frank Luntz was exactly right when he was begging that focus group of troglodytes for answers on why they approved so heartily each time the candidates slammed Hillary: every second devoted to beating up on the Clintons is a second they are not using to discuss their principles. Save the attacks for TV ads, radio spots and surrogates. John Kerry thought anti-Bush sentiment would be enough to get him into the White House -- how well did that work out for him?

But what about Hillary's negatives, you may ask? Think again.


Fred Thompson held his own and looked much better than he did last Friday at the Value Voters forum, but he needs to start dazzling, and that he did not do.

The RoboPol3000 (a.k.a. Mitt Romney) looked kind of bland.

I like to think that for every word Tom Tancredo speaks, the GOP loses a hundred Latino voters for a generation (at the very minimum). Republicans would be wise to stop encouraging him, maybe even take him aside and whisper in his ear, "You know, Tiger, you gave it your best shot, but YOU'RE NOT HELPING."

Florida Republicans: The audience sounded like they were only interested in being pandered to and awarded applause accordingly.


McCain, no question. His line was probably the best moment of any of the debates (GOP or Dem) so far.


Health care. I have no idea what they are talking about when they speak about this issue and the general impression I get is that nothing will change in this department if a Republican gets to set the agenda. It was easy to attack HillaryCare in the '90s when it was the only game in town, but this time around all Clinton has to do is say "Oh yeah? What do you got?" Right now the answer to that question is clearly nothing, and for a lot of Americans HillaryCare -- no matter how it will be framed by the GOP -- is far better than nothing.


Duncan Hunter:

This is a historic venue. You know, 300 miles off this coast is a place ...

Think about that for a second. So, this historic venue that Hunter's talking bout is actually nowhere near this gathering? Is Hunter saying that the state of Florida is the historic venue? And it only got worse. The pandering to the Cuban-American electorate during a question about abortion, gay marriage, and the general nature of conservatism was ridiculous. I know politicians are supposed to answer the question they wished had been asked, but it's wise to generally stay within the same hemisphere of the topic.


Have you ever seen a guy with a bigger self-satisfied smirk on his face than when Hunter tangled with Romney on the Massachusetts universal health care program? The only way that grin could get any larger was if someone promised to spoon-feed Hunter his own feces.


Where's Alan Keyes?


Despite being considered the "maverick" or "loose cannon" candidate in a party that demands its members to fall in line, Ron Paul is probably the most disciplined debater of the crew. All his answers come back to the Constitution. If it's details you crave, Paul will not be your guy, but the aptly-named Paul is not a bad apostle for the monastic devotion to the Constitution he espouses.


Susan Davis at the WSJ notes: "The Clinton name was mentioned 34 times at tonight’s debate. No other Democratic candidate received a mention."

Mark Ambinder thought Romney was impressive:

At long last, Romney defended and touted and bragged about the singular political and policy accomplishment of his tenure as Massachusetts governor: the health care system reform that provides every resident there with insurance. Watching him at other debates, it was easy to get the sense that he wasn't sure how to integrate his Massachusetts experience into his campaign narrative. The plan itself was written with the help of Heritage Foundation experts but it did not, in the end, comport with every conservative principle.

The Bull Dong Pundit at Ankle Biting Pundits also thought McCain won.

Soren Dayton surveys the field:

On a deeper level, McCain clearly moved the ball. Thompson clearly moved the ball. Giuliani is fine treading water. He looks like he could be President.

I think it was a bad night for Romney. And Huckabee had some cute lines, but he needed to really rock tonight to drive through his straw poll victory from the Value Voters conference. And he didn’t.

James Poulos on the need to focus on domestic issues:

All I can conclude for now is that Mitt Romney is the only guy who won't show up on a national ticket with any one of the other guys. And one other thing: Fred, McCain, and Huckabee are dead right that Republicans are doomed if they try to beat Hillary instead of recover their principles...

Okay, one other thing. People need to clearly separate themselves from the doom visited upon the Republican party by the Bush family. Are you more like Reagan or more like Bush? That's the question that counts. The hardest part of doing this is on foreign policy, because Hillary, running as a Rockefeller Republican, will use Restoring America's Respect Around the World as a crowbar. So if need be please compensate domestically. (This does not mean railing on about keeping taxes low, which is playing defense, but slashing Bush spending across the board, home and abroad.)

Chuck Todd makes an interesting observation:

It's 74 days until the Iowa caucuses (actually, just under 1800 hours) and clearly all of the major GOP candidates were feeling that pressure at Sunday night's debate. All of them were full of energy and had one-liners and barbs at the ready. For that reason, I'm having a hard time singling out a winner because everyone in the so-called 1st and 2nd tier was VERY prepared tonight.

The first 25 minutes of the debate was simply red-hot but then, almost as if on cue with the first pitch of Game 7 of the Red Sox-Indians and the kickoff of the Steelers-Broncos game, the debate stopped creating too many newsworthy moments.

Coincidence? Probably not. (Noam Scheiber notices the same thing)

Dave Weigel on the aforementioned Duncan Hunter nonsense:

8:27: Duncan Hunter traces the decline of the Democratic party to "a Democrat president" letting down the Cuban freedom fighters. It's important to remember that Ron Paul is the crazy one.

David Yepsen:

John McCain had the best night. Rudy Giuliani also turned in a good performance and newcomer Fred Thompson did much better than he did in his first gabfest.


Despite the good showings by these three, there was no big news or major mistakes that might change the dynamic of the GOP campaign. Given that it was held at the exact same time as the big baseball playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians, that’s probably just as well.

If you don't think most of the country was watching the Red Sox game, read Michael Sherer.

Ana Marie Cox:

8:32 PM Ron Paul is not crazy. I don't believe that. But sometimes he yells like he's chasing the moderators off of his yard. I do love how he turned a health care question into a tirade against Iraq.


9:31 PM And it's over. Finally. Snap judgment: McCain had the best line, Rudy had the most good ones, Huckabee continues to shine but maybe not brightly enough. Fred needs to take a nap, and Romney totally knows how to use contractions. New in version 3.0!

The only Wisco bloggers with anything to say about the debate so far are Freedom Eden & No Runny Eggs.


Seriously, how weird was Frank Luntz's focus group?

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