May 3, 2007

Debate Analysis: Romney Wins

The first Republican debate has finished, and the analysis and spin will begin in earnest. I'm sure that by morning, my e-mail will be filled with messages insisting on promoting one candidate over another, but I already have a few conclusions to share with CQ readers and to inspire debate in this comment thread.

* Who won? -- Mitt Romney won this debate. He looked relaxed, answered clearly, showed real warmth and a sense of humor, and actually answered the questions asked of him -- even the stupid ones, to which I'll return shortly. After Romney, one has to think that Jim Gilmore and Mike Huckabee may have made some strides in breaking out of the third tier. They also showed that they could connect emotionally to the audience and give clear, thoughtful answers.

* Who lost? -- Not everyone who didn't win lost, but a couple of candidates obviously lost this debate. Tommy Thompson, who already had problems with comments made to a Jewish audience, said he thought it was OK for people to get fired just for being homosexual. Whats worse, he looked like a deer in the headlights when Chris Matthews first asked the question. He mumbled, stumbled, and vacillated his way through this debate.

Ron Paul also showed that he should depart the race as quickly as possible. He gave one-note answers about federalism and the original intent of the founders for every question asked of him. He looked outraged all night long, but he put the rest of us to sleep.

* Who marked time? -- John McCain and Rudy Giuliani didn't gain ground but didn't do much damage to themselves, either. McCain started off angry, loud, and aggressive in an obviously deliberate manner, as if he had practiced his Mike Gravel imitation before the debate. He also supported federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, one of only two to do so, and pretty much wrote off the conservative base when he did so. Giuliani stumbled pretty badly on abortion, but he was also the only candidate -- the only candidate -- who offered a defense of George Bush on the war. Everyone else threw him under the bus, especially John McCain.

* How did MS-NBC and Politico perform? -- Poorly. The format guaranteed that we would learn next to nothing about these candidates. The Politico editor kept strolling all over the stage, asking questions from their on-line audience that were embarrassingly inane. Matthews' questions were better, but phrased in a manner that (a) seemed hostile, and (b) didn't allow for thoughtful answers. The better candidates simply worked their way around the questions, while the others looked lost.

* What about Fred? -- Fred helped himself tremendously by staying out of this debate. His absence will make GOP hearts grow much fonder, much faster. At this rate, if Fred stays out of these debates until the primary season begins, he might be the consensus nominee.

* Who's out first? -- The Heading Right folks say Ron Paul, but I think it's Tommy Thompson. He had a disastrous night, while no one expected any more from Paul than we got tonight.


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Comments (25)

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:06 PM

Fred Thompson won.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:13 PM

With Thompson still sitting on the sideline, the winner of the debate was (you fill in the democratic candidate).

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:18 PM

Re: Monkei at May 3, 2007 10:13 PM

This is the order:
1. Ghost of Ronald Reagan
2. Fred Thompson
3. Mitt Romney
Last: Chris Matthews

Posted by JEM [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:45 PM

Hopefully the GOP has learned its lesson and will drop-kick Olbermann and Matthews back over the wall and find some folks who know what the hell they're doing. Maybe the Dems were right in running away from Fox.

The GOP race could do with a couple fewer candidates. Mindless answers to mindless questions turns the pool yellow for everyone.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:57 PM

The "first person, out" is the one who has no money. And, can't raise any, either.

The two front runners? A Mormon. And, a Catholic.

Ya think hillary watched? Well, why not?

Good for Guliani backing the president. Since he's not part of the Realtor business, he's opting to show the American side. Not the "commission."

But the debates?

Good they're more than six months away from the "tightening." And, they're good experience.

The candidates also see "more audience" than they would eating the rubber chickens; and reaching, max 2000 people a night. (If that many, most of the time.)

Why are lots of Americans turned off?

Because they're sure you can't cure cancer with talk. And, massaging these "shows" isn't very productive. Again, you asked about the "first man to lose." And, this is without knowing about a person's health. Or how campaigning, itself can drain ya of energies. (Yes. Positive crowds ignite that back up, again.) But real leadership has bad days in them. And, that's also something people are watching. As they evaluate "long idstance runners."

We also don't know what the House of Saud is funding in I-R-A-K. Since there's a cardboad cut-out of Al's Kay Duh. But Iraqi contractors were building a school GOOD THE AMERICAN SOLDIERS CHECKED! Because it was gonna out-do Beslan. It was going to blow up a girl's school. While we're still acting deaf, dumb, and blind. About how the terrorists only need one, big, explosive show. AND, LOOK AT THE MONEY THEY CAN SPEND! To get to innocents.

Nobody's turned this one, around, yet.

But it sits there. Ain't that the truth?

So, whose gonna be the first candidate to really dish the truth out? No fake showtimes. But the real deal? And, no commission check from the House of Saud; for claiming new countries, with "adjusted" borders.

Meanwhile, in Israel? Are you surprised it's the Left that's attempting to collapse Olmert's government?

Ya know what? Sometimes a man can appear weak. But if Olmert survives this. And, gets better at picking partners; it's possible he'll win more than the one to four months DEBKA guarantees, today.

Leadership is formed in the crucible. Some men really get to lead. While most? Don't.

The way the press works, they advertise "crowds." Like, today. In Tel Aviv. So I'm implementing my own test. For a crowd to be large enough to impress me? It has to contain more people than the number of people, in any given day, who buy a bag of chips.

Real businessmen know how to stock the shelves for the hungry "chips and a drink" crowds.

Posted by Brooklyn [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 11:12 PM

agree with Romney being a clear winner.

it is understandable why the liberal democrat partisans fear him, and Conservatives should give him a real chance.

Rudy was fine, not as impressive as Romney, but he is solid,

The former Mayor's rebuke of the Democrats, in specific reference to the pathetic question of returning Bill Clinton to the WH, wanting to go on defense was wonderful.

His question whether the Democrats, had even mentioned Islamic Radical Militancy was excellent.

He understands the GWOT, and his work in NYC, post and pre 9-11, is very positive.

McCain really tanked in my opinion.

He looked old, tired, harsh, bitter, etc.

He's past his prime, is all over the map with political posturing vs. sincere conviction, lacks natural charisma, wants to appease the liberal media with dumping on the Bush Administration, etc...

Yes, we know he is a Hero in Vietnam. Very thankful for it.

But, isn't his admirable past Service, being a true Hero, something that should remind the Senator, of the difficulty of being in a combat zone?

Seriously, Sen. McCain, mistakes will always be made, even in the most admirable endeavor which requires Military Action.

(Especially in the heart of the Arab World).

But John McCain, when you vote for it, you still are responsible for it, and your demeaning of those who are bravely trying to implement your policy, deserve better than what you are providing.

I think McCain should get out asap.

On the other hand, MSNBC and Politico (seemingly raided by the Kos Kids for questions to demean Conservatives), was truly tired, and quite ugly.

In fact, the denial is so thick with the Matthews - Olbbbbberrrrrrmaaannn folly, they should join a circus.

Ron Paul is a disaster, and Tom Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, should call it a night, and never return.

Ron Paul should remind those of the Conservatives who flirt with going to the extreme, to come back a little.

Unfortunately, this could have been a great evening, if MSNBC and Politico had been watching from home.

But still, impressed many of the Republicans handled it with class, strength, professionalism, etc.

They looked for the most part, the majority of them, like GrownUPS, compared to the liberal democrat alternative.

Posted by fejj [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 11:46 PM

I dont believe Romney "threw Bush under the bus" as you state. The format sucked and the presence of the wannabes ruined the debate. Romney was the clear winner. Hmm - a 4 way with Thompson, McCain, Romney and Guiliani with decent moderators would be infinitely more exciting

Posted by Grumpy Old Man [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 12:10 AM

Sorry, but Romney seemed robotic and phony. Take out the four AAs and his head would flop down to his ankles.

He's this year's Connally or Phil Gramm--has the money and corporate types like him, but that dog won't hunt.

Posted by gull [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 1:38 AM

I supported Romney long before the debate. After tonight, my support is even stronger.

Fred Thompson? Many will question why he hasn't already declared his candidacy and participated in the early goings while focus is on individual achievements. There's a hint in some quarters that he's never been known for fire in the belly approaches to work -- regardless of the rhetoric. There is also a relatively silent group that feels he's a tool of dems and the fear-Romney coalition -- that his legislative record (i.e., sponsoring bills, etc.) is not as notable as assumed .... plus, his past record indicates a change in his pro-life stand ... IMO -- Fred isn't a "shoo-in" for either the POTUS or VP nominations.

Great guy, but reckon he's actually waiting for the vp slot?

Posted by Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 1:51 AM

The winners were Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and Duncan Hunter, in that order.  I think Hunter established himself as a credible VP candidate, especially if we need a real Conservative to balance a ticket with Rudy at the top. Too bad he isn't better looking and more charismatic; even with the "Swift Boat"/Namvet crowd behind him, and some of them already are and a lot more would mobilize if he got the nomination, he just isn't electable against Hillary or Obama. I do so truly hope that Fred! is just being coy for strategic reasons. The country needs him. I added an excerpt and link to my 2007.05.04 Decision '08 // Dem Stupidity Roundup.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 2:06 AM

Re: gull at May 4, 2007 01:38 AM

Hard to say, but Thompson is still stirring the pot:


Senator Fred Thompson to Address
The Lincoln Club of Orange County

Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) will give his first major
address since announcing he will explore a possible run for President at the
Lincoln Club of Orange County’s 45th Annual Dinner. Approximately 400
Lincoln Club members and guests are expected to attend this private event.

When: Friday, May 4th
Event starts at 6 p.m./Program starts at 7 p.m. Thompson’s speech
expected to start around 8:30 p.m.

- Media check-in starting at 4 p.m.
- All broadcast cameras must be set up in ballroom by 5:45 p.m. prior
to guests’ arrival.
- Final check-in for all print/other media: 7:45 p.m.

The Balboa Bay Club & Resort
1221 Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663

A limited number of credentials are available by request. Members of the media
must request a credential by close of business on Wednesday, May 2. Please
specify the number of credentials required for reporter, photographers, camera
operators, or other special technical needs. Credentials will be distributed on site
upon check-in.


Posted by mw [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 2:07 AM

I agree that Romney fared best on the night. It was a good enough performance to move him up in the pack for me.

As I've commented here before, I will be supporting the Republican candidate regardless of who it is, as that is the only way to maintain divided government (Dems can't lose Congress in '08). That said, I have preferences. My favorite Republican is Hagel, who would be a lock to win the general election, but I don't think he has a chance of getting past the "Loyal Bushies" to win the nomination.

Romney is the next best choice. He has a Clinton-esque quality in front of the camera and comes across as sincere even when explaining 180 degree flip-flops in core convictions. It is clear that, like Bill Clinton, he will govern based on the polls and continuous compromise. We'll probably be north of 70% of America wanting us out of Iraq by the time he takes office. He'll get us out quickly, no matter what he says now. Good enough for me.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 2:12 AM

Thompson flubbed the gay employment question only in mannerism. Otherwise, I found his presentation convincing, as was Gilmore's (I don't think his Iraq plan is workable, though). It matters not a whit for either, of course.

Romney was the best of the contenders. His only weakness was repeating his spiel on his abortion view change verbatim on follow-up. Giuliani was okay, but lacked the charisma he exudes on the stump or in interviews. McCain was pretty good after a stumbling start.

Nobody scared Fred Thompson, watching at home, though.

Ron Paul is a complete moron. Tancredo isn't far off.

Posted by jethro [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 5:40 AM

Chris Matthews destroyed any hope of this being a meaningful exercise. I was totally unmoved. My opinion of the candidates remains grounded in their records and in the Q&A I've heard on conservative talk radio. Ghost of Ronald Reagan won the debate.

Posted by quickjustice [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:13 AM

Did any of you notice that the camera consistently was cutting off the tops of the heads of the candidates? It was distracting for me. Was that incompetence or sabotage?

It's hard to take any of the "debate" seriously when the cameraman is playing the fool with those on stage. The candidates did pretty well in maintaining their dignity under the circumstances, but the format and questioning was an insult to our intelligence.

We should take Gingrich's proposal at Cooper Union for a format in which each candidate gets sixty minutes to speak on separate nights, saying anything he or she pleases, and setting his or her own priorities. (Gingrich is a master of that format.) When the candidate has to string thoughts together for that amount of time, you really get an in-depth look at him or her in a hurry.

Posted by Dale in Atlanta [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:24 AM

PLEASE Fred Thompson, PLEASE get into the race, and SOON!

Posted by quickjustice [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:27 AM

Oh, and Mickey Mouse won the debate! ;-)

Posted by Rod [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:30 AM

In my opinion Mit won big. But it was a very weak field. Had Newt and Fred been there it would have been much different. Rudy and McCain were beaten by many in the group. Both were bad. Of course being "Pro Choice" makes Rudy the big winner to the MSM. Taxpayers tend to disagree with the MSM and Rudy on this point.

Posted by Keemo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:37 AM

I didn't watch the debate; I have no interest in a Presidential debate a full year in advance of the appropriate season for such debates. This is all to ridiculous; we have important issues in front of us to debate and deal with. Suffering through (2) years of posturing and scrambling by these good folks is distracting for the nation, as well as for the sitting President. Politicians have a difficult time telling the truth for an entire week, let alone several months. The same lame questions will be asked of every candidate for the next several months; one answer that doesn't match up to a previous answer & bingo "flip flopper, going back on a previous position" and all of that stuff will fill the headlines with an endless amount of ridiculous & boring stuff. All of which will take our minds off the important issues, like "funding and supporting our troops"; just for starters...

Posted by quickjustice [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:41 AM

Oh, and Mickey Mouse won the debate! ;-)

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 7:45 AM

After seeing the debate I can say that three words accurately describe the current GOP field.

Tentative. Timid. Tiny.

At least we did not have to listen to "Chuckles" Hagel rant on about how al Qaeda winning in Iraq is somehow good for us. We get enough of that from the MSM and their Democrat pets. Ron Paul tried to be Hagel-lite and did what he usually does - flop.

Posted by Angry Dumbo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 8:20 AM

I watched last night. Romney was the best by far. Poised and confident in the face of some of the stupidest seminar caller questions from the Politico. Note to folks at the politico, the web doesn't need another smart ass left leaning Slate. Last night's debate performance turned me off from your site for good.

Posted by Count to 10 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 4:50 PM

After watching the event, I suddenly understood why Romney has such a following; the man veritably ooses charisma. He could say the most innane things and make them sound presidential with just his voice.
Kind of shocking, actually.

I also kept getting the impresion that the candidates were in hostile territory, despite being in the Reagan library.

McCain came off overblown, and he missed his chance to quote Reagans "youth and innexperiance" line when it was handed to him.

Rudy was stumbling.

Huchabee I had never even heard of before, but he stuck out.

Oh, and evolution is a scientific theory. If you "believe in" it, you've missed the point. You can find it reasonable, you can see that evidence suports it, and you can take it as a background assumption, but "believing in evolution" would just be another religion.

Posted by jaeger51 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 9:11 PM

It's really too bad about Tommy Thompson. As a former Wis. resident, I can attest that he was a great governor, and got a lot done. He was pretty much responsible for starting welfare reform for one thing, and would probably make a very good president. But yes, in the modern disgusting media age, where people like Bill Clinton do very well because they can come off as likeable on camera, he doesn't stand a chance. He always was a doofus on TV.

Posted by viking01 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 4, 2007 9:41 PM

The definite loser was abysmal puppet Chrissy Matthews whose Breguet Syndrome (chronic chronometerosis) presented as an incessant verbal tic. Time!....Time!... ad infinitum.

The laugh of the night had to be silly Matthews having to say "No, seriously!" after his blown attempt shilling for Bill Clinton was met with well deserved guffaws.

Romney did well enough though McCain's forced dramatics were not helpful to him.

Fred Thompson is wise to hold off entering the campaign until closer to the election when declaring candidacy will have greater import than a pre-event show 15 months before post time.