Debate Analysis

The Winner

1) Fred Thompson: Fred put on a much better performance than last time around. He was funnier, snappier, had more energy, and came across as more genuinely conservative than Mitt or Rudy. However, he does need to stop looking at his notes so often.

The Middle Of The Field

2) Rudy Giuliani: The man has charisma and comes across well, but he’s not a conservative, and he has no good answer for the weak spots in his right wing game. Yes, what he did in New York was great and yes, he’s great at bashing Hillary, but he uses those strengths as a dodge anytime his weaknesses on guns, abortion, and immigration are brought up. Rudy got asked if he was a conservative — and he dodged the question. I think that says a lot.

3) John McCain: He started off in a very subdued, almost somnolent manner, but he picked up steam as the night went on and he had the line of the night when he talked about being “tied up” while Hillary and her pals were at Woodstock. Ironically, McCain who is infamous for selling conservatives out on critical issues at the drop of a hat, came across as a man standing on principle in the debate. It’s a false impression, but one he managed to leave during the debate.

4) Mitt Romney: Mitt was off-key all night and this was definitely one of his weakest performances. Maybe it was because of the opening segment, where Fred Thompson beat Mitt and Rudy like a pinata because of their weaknesses on conservative issues.

5) Mike Huckabee: Huckabee has more raw charisma than anyone on the stage, but the format just kills him (and everyone except the big four for that matter) because he doesn’t get as much time to talk. Huckabee isn’t a particularly strong conservative, but my guess is that if Romney, McCain, or Rudy won, he’d get a strong look for the veep slot based on how well he can talk and the fact that he does so well with social conservatives.

6) Duncan Hunter: My former employer Duncan Hunter started out very strong, but got a little weaker as the night wore on. He’s another guy who might get consideration as a veep from Romney, McCain, Rudy, or even Huckabee, but he really suffers because he doesn’t get enough time to talk in these debates and, because his name recognition is still too low, he tends to veer back into his strong points instead of hitting all the issues as thoroughly as he should. Good example: he blew off a question about Social Security tonight to talk about trade. Why trade? He thinks that’s a big selling point for him in certain states, but it doesn’t look good to skip a question on something as important as Social Security. It may be a necessary trade off for him, but it’s a tough one.

7) Tom Tancredo: Tanc came across as very conservative and more thoughtful than normal, but he’s just not a good debater and his constant insistence on bringing illegal immigration into so many issues makes him come across as a one issue candidate.

The Loser

8) Ron Paul: 75% common sense and conservatism, 25% crank. Same as usual.

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t particularly fond of the Republican candidate bashing round robin that Fox engineered in the first round, but that’s typically what gets all the headlines the next day, so it’s hard to blame them. The round of Hillary bashing, however, was a bit more pleasant. All in all, Fox put on a decent debate and I appreciate the fact that they tried to cover some new ground.

I think Fred’s strong performance should help him and having people ask the question, “Who’s more conservative, Fred, Mitt, or Rudy,” will definitely help Fred.

Also, McCain continues to overperform and Huckabee and Hunter sound as good as the top tier candidates, if only they could get a chance to talk. Actually, at this point, the only guy who really comes across exceptionally poorly is Ron Paul.

You can see my liveblogging of the debate, here.

Post Debate polls

Who won the debate?
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
I didn’t watch it.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Who lost the debate?
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
I didn’t watch it.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

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