Final Thoughts On The Third GOP Debate

Last night we saw the Republican field mix it up for the third time, the setting this time being in New Hampshire. Surprisingly enough Mike and I were able to blog most of it, and you can check out the running commentary here.

But ultimately we were both distracted and unable to watch the whole thing uninterrupted. So in lieu of a full on analysis, I just want to point out a couple of what I think are going to be the most important moments of the debate, along with a quick snipe at Rudy Giuliani (because we all know I love him so much).

-Mike (our Mike) I think rightly pointed to governor Mike Huckabee as the winner at least in terms of performance. The ordained minister and former preacher really did let his bona fides show through during two key answers last night. The first was when asked to clarify his stance on not believing in evolution from the first debate. He eschewed any forms of common religious/political boilerplate and gave an eloquent and passionate answer that solidified his image as a man of faith. The monologue was moving enough to the point where when Senator McCain was issued a similar question, he deferred to Huckabee, saying he didn’t think he could be as eloquent as the pastor.

Later in the debate, Huckabee again ruled the roost when asked what he believed was the defining moral issue of our age. Now I’m staunchly pro-choice and a firm believer in the Clinton doctrine of safe legal and rare which seeks to reduce abortion through a more comprehensive approach of education, economy, and other factors that contribute to unwanted pregnancy. I’m pretty sure Mike’s in line with me, and yet we were both floored with Governor Huckabee’s answer that was essentially pro-life but so much more. Specifically, I think he rightly addressed a common criticism from the left to the “culture of life” crowd in saying that we need to go beyond just caring about what’s going on in the womb but the quality and sanctity of life at all stages. It was the second powerful and moving moment of the night from Huckabee, and in a crowd of very spiteful, seemingly angry and contentious men, the governor really does stand out as a more benevolent presence.

Unfortunately, I think he lacks the raw bite and red meat that plays so well to the Republican base, and therefore has no hopes at winining the nomination. As a result, Mike Huckabee and Senator Joe Biden may find themselves in an exclusive club wherein they both consistently perform admirably in the debates, and yet fail to see that translate into any significant gains in either polling numbers or fundraising. One thing is clear with Huckabee though, and that is he has defined himself probably the top of the lower tiered candidates, and may actually make a wise Vice Presidential choice.

-Another man of the moments in the Debates last night was Senator John McCain. A Vietnam vet that was actually tortured, McCain easily has sincerity rights an awful lot of the time when it comes to talking about troops, and it is this sincerity that won him what I think was one of the best moments of the evening.

It began with an immigration question that was directed towards the infamously anti-immigration (illegal AND legal) Tom Tancredo. When asked in the context of immigration what it meant to be an American, Tom’s answer was, in my opinion, ugly and horrific. “Cut from the past” he said, emploring immigrants to forget their culture, forget their native tongue, forget family who may possibly still be living in their original country. Then he launched into his second diatribe of the night about how a multilinguistic society will destroy our country ending with him whining about having to punch a button on a telephone to select English as the language. It was a xenophobic and borderline bigoted answer that I think the Republican party could really do without.

But it was John McCain who won the day. Directly following up on Tancredo’s answer, the senator stood up, turned to him, and said, “Muchas Gracias.” Which was good for a laugh. And then he launched into a very heartfelt and moving dialogue about immigration and multiculturism. The capper, the soundbite to this whole thing, tied a stunning ideal of the cultural contributions immigrants make to the very real sacrifices they make out of their love for the country in such a fashion as only the Vietnam vet could. “Go to DC, and go to the Vietnam memorial, and you will see carved in black granite a whole lot of hispanic names.”

He may break from ranks on immigration, but he stood by his guns undaunted, and I think that is something that Republicans look for.

-Now for some negatives. Mitt Romney, who until now was someone I would worry about because he is attractive to the center, and if he ran as Mitt Romney the governor of New Hampshire, and not Mitt Romney the I wanna be a conservative guy, we’d have some problems. But last night I think he fell down pretty hard. What the backlash will be will depend upon the press he gets, but, still.

The question came from the audience, and he wanted to know why Romney would put out two ads in Spanish when he believes in making English the official language of America. It highlighted hypocracy and flip flopping, and instead of trying to answer the question, Mitt dodged, and dodged hard, going straight into an immigration anwer without once touching on the question at hand.

It was a blatant dodge, and even worse, the audience knew it. The crowd in attendance last night was applause happy, giving ovations at the end of nearly every answer, but as Romney sat down from his unanswer, there was silence. They knew it, anyone watching knew it, he had nothing.

Now, like I said, it’s hard to tell how big of an impact it will have immediately, but it also points to an opening in the future because, since he didn’t even try to answer it, the question is still out there.

-Finally, I wanted to pick on Rudy. I’ve overheard people saying he was strong on immigration and showed he really knew the issues, but when the transcripts come out, I want you to read them carefully. Rudy Giuliani had NO SPECIFIC CRITICISMS of the McCain bill. None. The only criticism he had of the current immigration bill was that it didn’t have Rudy’s id card idea in it. That’s it. Finito. God the guy is a moron.

Anyway, that’s that. My quick run down on the important moments of the night. Thank you.

UPDATE: Speaking of transcripts, here you go.

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