A much more informative, and much more pugnacious debate. I think Wendell Goler was a little too focused on abortion for my tastes, but they were tough, hard-hitting questions, and I don’t think too any of his questions were too out of line. Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Goler are ten times better than Chris Matthews and the guy from Politico.
Rudy’s exchange with Ron Paul was the soundbite of the night; I’m sure Team Rudy thinks that won them the debate. I said last time that Rudy was better than his performance; tonight he proved it. Yes, he’s got his flaws; as Richard Brookheiser put it, “his sins are scarlet.” But his strengths are sterling.
McCain seemed to have switched to decaf tonight; no “to the gates of hell” from him. Personally, I really liked the King Leonidas McCain who acted like he was ready to impale Chris Matthews on a spear and then drink bin Laden’s blood from a goblet made out of Zawahiri’s skull. Still, a solid performance; his shot at Romney was delivered with just the right tone. Tough, but not too harsh.
Romney impressed Mrs. Hillaryspot, who is, uh, not likely to vote Republican. Last debate we were introduced to a very sharp, smooth candidate who knows how to make his case in a challengingly limited amount of time. Tonight, we saw last time’s good performance wasn’t just luck.
The other great line of the night came from Huckabee, taking a shot at Edwards for his expensive haircut. He’s demonstrating that he belongs on the stage with the big boys – seems to know how to make his case effectively in just a few sentences.
Brownback was a bit better tonight. I think I want to see him break out of the designated “religious conservative” box – yes, we know your faith is important to you and you check all the boxes on the religious right checklist – what else you got?
The rest of the second tier – Gilmore, Tancredo, Tommy Thompson – eh, none of them really stood out again. Having them in these debates is going to turn into a drag really fast.
Finally, get the hell off the stage, Ron Paul. We’re done with you.
UPDATE: In a revealing moment, I forgot to even say anything about Duncan Hunter. It’s a shame; he’s a solid guy who didn’t make any mistakes, who just doesn’t stand out on crowded stage. Let’s face it, the guy’s not going to get the nomination; but if a Republican wins the White House, he’s got to get serious considerationas the next Secretary of Defense.
UPDATE: Pat Caddell, just now on Fox News: “Giuliani should send Ron Paul a contribution, that exchange helped his campaign so much tonight.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Maybe there isn’t too much bad blood between McCain and Romney. Asked about his rival’s answers on interrogation techniques, Romney said of McCain, “Look, this man was tortured. He’s an American hero.”