I found the debate frustrating. Neither of the top tier candidates — Giuliani and Romney — had a good night. Giuliani took a big hit early over his 1994 statement welcoming illegal immigrants to New York. Thereafter, he seemed to answer most questions by referring to New York city crime statistics. He needs to diversify
Romney seemed defensive and, at times, evasive. His answers on Iraq were rambling. When the deputy sheriff in the restaurant called him out for not articulating an “end game” strategy, Romney was unable, I thought, to take advantage of the opportunity.
McCain did pretty well. At a minimum, as always, he answered the questions. I can conceive of him having a “surge” in New Hampshire as the “straight talk” candidate, particularly if Giuliani and Romney don’t step it up.
Huckabee had another decent night, and I give points to anyone who takes on Ron Paul. But (as Romney pointed out) the “broken pottery” analogy in Iraq misses the most important reason for why we need to keep fighting — namely the implications of the outcome on the war against terror. Huckabee also totally ducked the final question concerning what we should do if Iran continues on its present course towards becoming a nuclear power.
Duncan Hunter was, once again, the best of the rest.
Sam Brownback continues to be a huge disappointment. If the best he can do is channel Tom Friedman, it’s clearly time for him to withdraw.
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, Fox’s focus group agreed with me that McCain did better than the two front-runners, and that Rudy talked too much about New York.
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