If McCain’s goal was to make no errors, defend his tax cutting record and appeal more magnanimous and jovial than he is often made out to be, he succeeded. By the same token, if Romney wanted to appear competent, confident and economically astute, he passed with flying colors. As engaging and delightful as Rudy can be, I don’t think he shook up the race. In that sense Romney and McCain were winners. As for Huckabee, somewhere between the inheritance joke and the highway project I was reassured that he won’t be president.
Posts For: January 24, 2008
Tonight’s dreary but polite debate made it impossible to declare a winner. No mistakes, no huge moments, no great, punchy lines. Softballs were served up to nearly all the candidates, and no one seemed to want to take a big swing.
As a result, I think McCain might have done best precisely because no one really engaged him. The test tonight was “credible leadership.” There are lots of reasons to question McCain’s fitness as a GOP leader (his age, his anti-party reflexes, his wrong-headedness on the Bush tax cuts, etc), but no one challenged him. He arrived tonight as the leader and no one pushed him off the throne. His sudden statement near the end of the debate praising Rudy – apparently an effort to criticize the nasty quote about Giuliani from the New York Times editorial endorsing him that was read by Brian Williams – remind people that, even in the heat of battle, McCain is a mensch. Not a bad thing to be in the Florida primary.
But McCain did just fine. Rudy was good, but I doubt he did enough to save himself. Huckabee was charming until he shot a barb at Romney about his sons, which was a sour and dark moment.
…goes to Mike Huckabee, who has been running as a Christian identity-politics candidate. With great solemnity, he vowed he would never run away from his faith. Even if it made people uncomfortable. How…how…how noble. (I said something about the Clintons and Tartuffe during the Democratic firefight debate.)
John, the other reason, of course, to vote for Rudy is because the New York Times hates him. His best answer of the night.
He proves my VP theory correct by saying McCain’s age is not an issue. Huckabee, who has been relatively quiet so far, gets in his joke and McCain gets in his Sylvester Stallone joke. The perfect ticket for those who love aging action heroes.
Mike Huckabee just made the first terrible blunder of his time in these debates — bringing up Mitt Romney’s five sons and saying, effectively, that he should quit the campaign so he won’t spend their inheritance. Not funny, and maybe even a weird bank shot against Romney’s Mormonism. Fair is fair. Maybe Romney should mention Huckabee’s son in the next debate.
I want to second Daniel’s point regarding the sheer meaninglessness of questions regarding campaigning, fundraising, and polls. Minutes ago, Tim Russert’s question citing a poll in which 44% of respondents claimed that a Mormon president could not unite the country was the lowest of blows. It is frankly painful to hear Romney’s faith regularly made an issue, and the implication of the question–that Romney’s faith is a divisive issue–is virtually self-fulfilling: how can any candidate who is forced to focus on his faith ever be perceived as a uniter, particularly when he represents a religious minority?
This debate is dull, in large part, because the questions are so lame. Tim Russert and Brian Williams don’t have any deep observations on policy or the state of the country. So instead, they pose synthetic questions asking the candidates to respond to polls or primary election results. They think they are asking substantive questions because they ask for “specific” answers. This is journalistic vanity at its worst. Even Russert’s phony grilling of how much Mitt Romney has contributed to his own campaign is a question about an issue that only the media cares about.
Yes, Rudy did show his good humor and personality on deflecting the “What happened?” question. McCain does a great job of responding to his mom’s remark that Republicans will “have to hold their noses” to vote for her son. (And you thought your mom was an embarrassment.) He makes the best case he can, but can’t resist saying he puts his country above party. That’s McCain –love him or not. Russert pushes Romney on why he won’t say how many of his millions he spent. Romney gives a hint that it’s less than Bloomberg, Forbes and Corzine. A sticky moment, although he tries to turn this to his advantage by saying he is not beholden to others. Russert is really fairly aggressive here.
“Bill Clinton in the White House with nothing to do is something I can’t imagine the American people can imagine….The last thing Americans need is the Clintons back in Washington.”
Delightful answer by Giuliani on why his poll numbers have tanked — comparing himself to the New York Giants and the team’s startling victory in the NFC Championship. He noted that Mitt Romney asked him a very nice question, proving that Romney is lulled.
Rudy quizzes Romney on the catastrophic fund, but Romney escapes by, on one hand, saying citizens of one state shouldn’t subsidize others but, on the other hand, intoning that we should come up with a “backstop” for affected homeowners. Whatever. Rudy did slip in a dig about RomneyCare healthcare mandates.
Mitt Romney is doing well tonight, but he used the term “public-private partnership.” This is a terrible mistake. The term “public-private partnership” immediately causes 80 percent of the American people to fall into a deep, deep sleep.
It just endorsed his candidacy. That is not helpful to McCain right now. I saw this an hour ago and thought about posting something about it later tonight or tomorrow. I only decided to do so now because I (and 2,000 other people in the media) just got a gloating e-mail from Rudy Giuliani’s press office about it.
Ron Paul loves to express his cockamamie ideas on monetary policy. Mike Huckabee loves to talk about his cockamamie fair-tax scheme. Maybe there should be a special All-Cockamamie Debate featuring just the two of them.
The idea here it seems is to ask a question to allow an opponent to shine and take votes away from a more potent foe. Romney lets Rudy show his stuff on China. Yup, get some of those McCain votes. McCain asks Huckabee a FAIR tax question. Let him grab some of those middle and lower income voters from Romney. Interesting. UPDATE: However, Huckabee does ask Romney a tougher gun rights question, revealing that my “running for McCain’s VP” theory may be holding up.
Jen, Rudy Giuliani just did his best to answer your question. He made his bid to be the guy against Hillary Clinton. He said, “When the polls were six or seven out of ten Americans thinking it was a good idea, Hillary Clinton was in favor of the war. Now when the polls are six out of ten are against, Hillary Clinton is against the war.”
Russert interrupts: What does Rudy Giuliani think?
Giuliani: I was for it when six out of ten were for it, I’m for it when six out of ten are against it. I’m for it not because of polls, but because America is in a war, an Islamic terrorist war against us. America has to succeed in Iraq. And the goal in Iraq is an Iraq that’s stable and an ally of the United States. And to be president of the United States you have to be able to read polls but you can’t have them push you around.
(Hat tip: My DVR.)
I agree, John, that McCain’s explanation of the essence of our challenge in Iraq is, for those who believe this is the central issue of the day, a potential deal closer. So what is the rationale for Rudy’s candidacy and what can he do to change the dynamic either of the debate or the race? I’m stumped.
The candidates are indeed impressive and well versed, but this is supposed to be a debate and no one is really debating. The campaign advisors must have told their candidates ”don’t argue.” There appears to be no question Russert and Williams can come up with to generate any conflict. In general, Romney is at his best when talking economics; McCain shines when he’s talking Iraq strategy and spending reduction. In other words, this is nothing we haven’t heard or seen before. Rudy’s team is busy e-mailing oppo on his opponents, but unless Rudy articulates these arguments they amount to little.