Giuliani soars

Today’s debate left me feeling better about the Republican presidential field, though not necessaily about Republican presidential prospects. All four top tier candidates did well, but some did better than others. Here is how I saw it.
Giuliani, the clear winner, was on top of his game from start to finish. In a single segment he devastated Ron Paul, pointing out that Paul had either forgotten that 9/11 was planned in Afghanistan or that it had occurred at all, and Hillary Clinton, chiding her for refusing to answer quetions about whether she’d take military measures to prevent a nuclear Iran. Later, he responded to a general question about Canada (directed to Fred Thompson) by noting the looming threat to Canadians posed by Hillary Care — the prospect of not being able to come to the U.S. for quality health care. And, in the biggest upset of the evening, Rudy mentioned his New York record only once other than in response to a direct question about it.
Romney was strong, as always, but generally not as effective as Rudy. The two went toe-to-toe twice. The general dispute about their comparative records as tax cutters seemed like a draw. On the specific dispute about the line item veto, I thought Giuliani debated better (the merits of the legal issue is a subject for another day). Romney also sounded more like a business man than a president when he said he’d have his attorneys figure out whether he needed to consult with Congress before launching an attack on Iran.
Thompson did well for his first time out. He was excellent on taxes, patiently explaining that the wealth of government isn’t the same thing as the wealth of nations. And he was very effective on Iraq, pointing out that Saddam Hussein almost certainly would have reconstituted his nuclear program in the context of a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. At other times, Thompson was uninspiring at best, as in his rambling answer about how Republicans can regain the voters’ trust on economic issues. Thompson needs to become more consistently sharp, and he probably will. However, he looks old, and I don’t thnk there’s much he can do about that. Will this be a problem for him? Beats me.
McCain was solid, but a bit subdued. He didn’t approach his commanding performance of the last debate.
Of the other candidates, Sam Brownback finally had a good night. I was glad to see this because I like Brownback. Now I hope he’ll leave the race and take a few others with him.
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