Winner: Thompson. This performance was so commanding, I wanted his last answer to echo back to the lights in the back of the auditorium, blow out all the lamps and spotlights, for the theme to “the Natural” to play, and for him to trot around the stage in slow motion while sparks showered down in the background.
Silver Medal: Actually, Giuliani, McCain and Romney all had “pretty good” nights – although I wonder if Romney missed a golden opportunity to make a point when Paul suggested that Iran was not much of a threat. McCain seemed a little softer-edged tonight. For a guy who’s arguably now the frontrunner, he didn’t seem to catch a lot of flak tonight.
Giuliani is good, but when you watch all of these debates, his rhetoric gets repetitive after a while. I feel like he’s in reruns.
All of these guys felt kind of like the supporting cast tonight; the headline fight was Thompson vs. Huckabee, with everybody periodically jumping in to beat on Ron Paul.
Bronze: Huckabee – and ironically, he had some good answers tonight – economics, and the religion one. Still very likeable, as usual, but I wonder if Thompson started taking the bark off him a bit tonight. South Carolina’s Republicans are different from Iowa’s, and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to smile and populist his way through it. Responding to a tough attack is never easy, and I credit him for not taking the Romney-esque, “oh, that’s uncalled for, I don’t think we should make such personal attacks…”
Playing his own game: Ron Paul. I have to wonder – do his supporters really enjoy watching him in these debates? Every time he speaks, somebody uses him as a punching bag for some cheap and easy applause lines. I don’t think he’s necessarily winning everybody over, and I don’t think his opponents are dislodging any of his supporters.
For once I’m in total agreement with Frank Luntz’s focus group – they loved Fred. They’re saying he showed passion.
Two people in the focus groups said he was “in the shadows” before this evening. What? He’s an illegal immigrant?