Thursday, January 24, 2008

quick thoughts on tonight's debate

Okay, we'll call the easy one first: the loser tonight was Tim Russert. Could he have taken any more cues from the left's talking points?

I enjoyed listening to Huckabee and Romney; Giuliani slightly less so; McCain wasn't horrible, but showed his lack of graciousness on more than one occasion; Paul was simply intolerable.

MORE DEPTH: Romney is very good in these debates because he is bright. I think he doesn't have a great sense of humor, as his struggles to parlay a question about Billary into a tidy soundbite showed, but he speaks well and he has something behind his words worth talking about.

Giuliani is a bright man also, but I don't think he's quite the communicator I'd like him to be. His relation of the story of Bill Smith being skewered in the New York Times was. . .uh. . .well, let's just say if you weren't there you didn't miss much.

In fact, all these guys could learn the value of a simple answer. Rudy, when asked about the meanness of the Times' endorsement statement, could've created something quick and light. McCain never met a word he didn't like, either.

Huckabee was a pleasant surprise for me, although I don't know why. I don't think there's much there beneath a rather polished exterior, but he is a compelling speaker. I watched a local newscast immediately after the debate, and the resident poli-sci professor called Huckabee the winner. It's hard for me to argue with him.

McCain. . .well, I don't know. He did seem defensive. I coulda swore he said he supported both Bush tax cuts, and then talked about how he didn't vote for the cuts because of other reasons. Maybe I heard wrong. His reliance on endorsements--he must have rattled off his list of endorsers 3 times--means he thinks those people's judgement should mean more to me than my judgement of him. I'd prefer to actually hear him talk about his policies rather than talk about other people who think he's great. It's shallow, to me--and I didn't hear a single other person tout their endorsements, and they all have something to talk about in that regard. Again, I could be wrong, and maybe some other candidate also mindlessly rattled off their endorsements--but I don't think so.

One part of the debate that I actually liked that I didn't think I would was the "candidate on candidate" portion. Romney asked a good (though long-winded) question to Giuliani that showed they both had good command of the international economy. Giuliani returned the favor with a question about the national disaster fund, which Romney answered well. McCain lobbed a question about the fair tax to Huckabee--please! I can't remember what Huck asked and of whom, and every time Ron Paul was talking I tuned out so I can't provide info there, but all in all I thought it was an interesting portion of the night.

SO: If Giuliani HAD to win the debate tonight--as has been written in some circles--I don't think he did. I don't think McCain helped himself at all; I'm not sure Romney did either--not through any fault of his own, mind you, but he was given some crap questions (read: Tim Russert) that his entirely legitimate answers to might seem "slick" to a casual observer. Huckabee may have calmed some fears of the electorate, but I don't think he'll win many converts--although he might be wishing he hadn't pulled back his effort in Florida.

That's one man's opinion.


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