So ends the third Republican debate of the year. Our initial reaction is that McCain performed the best of the top tier, then Giuliani, and finally Romney.
McCain had two significant moments which were the key moments of the debate. One was when he answered a question posed by the sister of a fallen soldier, elaborating on his Iraq position. More important, he dropped his voice and looked at the voter straight in the eye. Even more, he brought back a theme from his 2000 campaign, saying he’d give her a bit of “straight talk”. Another instance was when McCain drew applause on the unlikeliest of issues, immigration. He discussed the passion immigrants feel for America and how they have fought and died for the country.
McCain’s immigration answer:
“My friends, I want you the next time you’re down in Washington, D.C. to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite. You’ll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. When you go to Iraq or Afghanistan today, you’re going to see a whole lot of people who are of Hispanic background. You’re even going to meet some of the few thousand that are still green card holders who are not even citizens of this country, who love this country so much that they’re willing to risk their lives in its service in order to accelerate their path to citizenship and enjoy the bountiful, blessed nation. So let’s from time to time remember that these are God’s children. They must come into country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them.”
Giuliani had a bit of luck when talking about his support for abortion, saved by a few well-timed lightning strikes that muddled his answer for the television viewer. However, the issue resurfaced when Sam Brownback said the party couldn’t nominate a pro-life candidate. A bright spot for Giuliani was when he attacked the media (always a good strategy, it seems) about potentially emphasizing the negatives of the surge more than the negatives. Giuliani also attacked the Democrats a number of times, taking a page out of Hillary’s playbook.
Romney performed well on a question about his Mormon religion, saying “I also believe that there are some pundits out there that are hoping that I’ll distance myself from my church so that that’ll help me politically, and that’s not going to happen”. Romney also looked presidential when avoiding a “If I knew then what I know now” question on Iraq, saying he wouldn’t engage in hypotheticals (taking a similar path to Hillary on Sunday). However, Romney muddled through this question, “Just earlier tonight, you indicated that you said that you’d want the national language of the United States to be English. However, why are you airing ads in Spanish?” After saying he loved immigrants, Romney then somehow brought in Asia coming out of poverty and selling products to them.
The biggest loser not physically at the debate was clearly President Bush. As the Republican party attempts to distance itself from the administration, a few candidates were fairly blunt about their opinions of the president. Rep. Tom Tancredo said the president “should never darken the doorstep of the White House”. Tommy Thompson also said he certainly wouldn’t sent him to the U.N.
Mike Huckabee performed the best of the second-tier candidates, on one occasion launching into a sermon about God and religion. Drawing praise from McCain, the answer also garnered thunderous applause from the audience. Another moment came when Huckabee expounded on what it means to be pro-life, saying “we should respect life at all levels, not just during pregnancy … we celebrate life. It’s the fundamental thing that makes us unique and it keeps us free”. Huckabee has stood out in each of the three Republican debates, but his weak organization is preventing him from making much progress.
Sam Brownback’s memorable moments came when he was talking about other people and not himself. One was when he attacked President Clinton, saying he “has not assumed the right role of an ex-president”. Another one occurred when Brownback said he would support Giuliani if he became the nominee, but didn’t think the party would nominate a pro-choice candidate.
Who do you think won the debate?