December 12, 2007

The Winner Of The Most Dull Debate Is ...

... certainly not the viewer. I'm with Fred Barnes. We got a series of campaign slogans, not a debate. He called Carolyn Washburn "Nurse Ratchet," and Mort Kondracke echoed my depiction of Washburn as a schoolmarm. Nothing much happened in 73 minutes, as I noted in my moment-to-moment commentary at Heading Right.

Without much tension on stage, or even interest, the candidates had to push against air most of the debate. Earlier, I wrote about what the top-tier candidates had to do today, but they had very little opportunity to score points for themselves or each other. Nothing said today on the stage had been left unsaid before today.

That said, all of them took some positives away from this race. Fred Thompson showed up for the debate, and scored points against Washburn's silliness in the most interesting and spontaneous part of the debate. McCain relaxed and was himself. Rudy Giuliani showed flashes of humor and looked much more confident and poised. Mike Huckabee showed compassion and egalitarianism, and he also showed some humility afterwards, apologizing after the debate for taking a cheap shot at Romney in the New York Times.

However, it's clear that Mitt Romney won this debate. Huckabee didn't hurt himself, but Romney had eloquence, poise, and serious content in his performance. He looked presidential and sounded even more so. He also seemed spontaneous and good-humored, mixing it up with Fred Thompson and keeping it light. He never really went after Huckabee, choosing more to focus on his own record.

Will this debate help him reverse the momentum he's lost to Huckabee in Iowa? Only if enough Iowans stayed awake during this droning, dull, and ultimately pointless exercise.

UPDATE: I should note that Fox and C-SPAN2 will replay this debate later tonight. I'll appear on C-SPAN2's Capital News Today after 10 pm CT tonight to talk (via telephone) about the debate.

UPDATE II: Quote of the day on this debate, regarding Fred's refusal to do a silly hand-raising exercise, from my friend McQ at QandO:

People are there to hear the candidates on issues, not watch them wave their hands around.

Perhaps Ms. Washburn will realize that in time for tomorrow's Democratic debate.


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