Winners: Rudy Giuliani. He adeptly stayed from the social issues, firmly repeating his “tough on crime, tough on terrorism” litany. Giuliani again tried to direct his fire toward the Democrats, but also made a few subtle jabs at Romney. In contrast, he was exceedingly kind to McCain, eagerly hoping for his endorsement if McCain drops out before the primaries.
John McCain: McCain’s favorite state is New Hampshire, and it showed last night. Although McCain seemed fairly tepid in the first half on the topics of Thompson and immigration, he brightened up when foreign policy was broached. He harshly told Romney the surge was working and stood firmly behind his Iraq policy. McCain’s been battered by the media in the period between debates, and voters got to see the actual candidate without the media’s varnish.
Losers: Fred Thompson. New Hampshire Republican chairman Fergus Cullen fired the initial volley against Thompson, saying “campaigns should be more than 30-seconds”, right after a Thompson commercial aired on the same network. He also said, “In New Hampshire, candidates do the hard work”. The barrage continued when the candidates threw out a vast array of one-liners, many focusing on Thompson’s lack of personally engaging with voters. Thompson loomed over the debate, but with a negative effect to his campaign.
Mitt Romney: Last night was a hostile environment for Romney, criticized by McCain on the Iraq surge and by a New Hampshire voter for comparing his sons’ work on his campaign to the sacrifice of soldiers in Iraq. Romney gave a brief response to the NH voter before clumsily switching to talking about the global battle against jihad. Romney will have to show he can do better when under the pressure of being a front-runner.