My take on the Republicans’ eleventy-twelfth debate (how many more of these things are there going to be?):
–Rich Was Right about Huckabee yesterday when he marveled about how he’s improved as the campaign has worn on. I don’t know if he has the funds or can overcome his deficit in the polls to become the nominee, but if I were the Republican candidate he’d be at the very top of my list of potential VPs. He’s the only guy on the stage who seems consistently capable of reaching Joe Sixpack.
–McCain really deserves to be back in the top tier. His performance tonight was very strong, he was nimble and funny, and made a good case for why conservative voters need to reevaluate him. Ultimately the differences may stem more from John McCain’s (admittedly self-cultivated) media narrative than substantive differences between him and the conservative base. Given the alternatives, McCain’s reliability on the two most important issues — fiscal responsibility and national security — should cause conservative voters to look at him anew. His big handicap is that he comes off as low energy relative to the other candidates.
–I still want to see Rudy hit some home runs that will erase all doubts about his conservative credentials. I fear it won’t happen, but base hits win ballgames, and Rudy is still the most consistent guy in these debates.
–Romney wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly good either. He didn’t do well in the last debate thanks to his “consult the lawyers” answer and I was kind of looking for him to bounce back.
– I actually appreciate Ron Paul’s integrity and he does add to the debate. If nothing else he shows Republicans have a big tent. But shut up about the Federal Reserve already, umm kay?
–In the last debate, Thompson started out shaky and finished strong. In this debate, he started out really strong and ended up shaky as the debate went on (though the fact that he had the last word of the debate and he gave a strong answer helped). I thought last time he needed to do better to live up to the hype. He was better this time around, but not improved enough to convince anybody he’s the horse to back.
–I agree with Rich again — it’s time for Hunter and Tancredo to fade away.