Probably the best debate thus far as the candidates started to square off a bit more. In reality they really had to as this was the first debate that Fred Thompson was involved in, and most of the candidates stepped their game up in order to combat Fred's surge in polls. Here's a run down of all the candidates involved, from worst to best:
Ron Paul - I agree with Paul on lowering taxes and free trade. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that he is wasting his time at these debates. To say he is over the top is an understatement. That being said however, he does have a cult following, and we all know how dangerous cults are. They are 9/11 Truthers and conspiracy nuts, and this will probably culminate in an independent run.
Sam Brownback - He's a great Senator and he showed a bit a humor for the first time in his exchange with Tommy Tancredo. "My mother is not an illegal immigrant." He belongs in the Senate not in the Presidency, and I respect Sen. Brownback a great deal. Overall, it was his best performance to date.
Tom Tancredo - Think he is passionate about illegal immigration? He's absolutely right on the issue and I give him props for tying most of the issues into illegal immigration. He is a great advocate on this issue, and I believe that between illegal immigration and reminding voters that the Republicans need to stick to reforming government and cut spending is his role in this election. That's actually a good thing, plus he is entertaining to watch.
Mitt Romney - Would be much higher if not for his lawyer talk in regards to striking Iran. I understand what he means though. He basically meant to say that he would consult a Constitutional expert if he could pursue the strike rather than immediately run to congress where politics would come into play and the window of opportunity would definately slip away. Still though, a big mistake as you know that clip will come back to haunt him in commercials. I do think he has excellent business management skills and would be great in economic matters, but that slip is not a common thing for him and it hurt him badly.
John McCain - Decent performance overall, but nothing spectacular. His new found consistency will help him out in the polls and he some flashes in this one. Still, Tancredo seemed to nullify alot of the gains he made as he basically called out McCain on the immigration issue. McCain started to fall apart after his support of the amnesty bill and unless he finds a way out of his part in that issue, the base won't readily forgive him for that.
Fred Thompson - Really came around during the last hour of the debate after starting off so sluggishly. He ate Chris Matthews' lunch with the "No one asked for your opinion Christopher" line, resulting in the usually "can't shut up" Matthews remaining awkwardly silent because he knew he had been bested. From that point on Matthews laughed at all Thompson's jokes, basically submitting to Fred. Fred needs to be a bit more energetic next time, but all in all not a bad performance.
Duncan Hunter - Great performance from Congressman Hunter. Hit all the points on China and really shined with talk of the "mirroring trade laws". His experience with national defense really came through last night and really sounded presidential in many ways. I came across really impressed and have noticed him more and more as time goes by. Last night he did a great job.
Rudy Giuliani - Really gave the best performance last night, mainly because Chris Matthew apparently has a man crush on him. Most of the questions were given to Rudy at the expense of the other candidates. He came back strong after a poor debate performance last time when he basically just talked about 9/11. This time he brought his A-game and his sparring with Romney was great. Both made great points, but Giuliani seemed very engaging last night and was able to project his passion better and seemed like he was talking to the audience both in the room and at home. One of the best lines of the night with the "Hillary wants to send $5,000 to every child born with her picture on it", in reference to Hillary's outlandish spending policies.
Mike Huckabee - Matthews should be ashamed of himself for not allowing Huck to talk more, but Huck jumped in and made great points as usual. The "Goober and Gomer" line was great, definately got a great laugh out of that. He was energetic and engaging and avoided the confrontations that other candidates got into. While the Giuliani-Romney exchanges were entertaining, at times it seemed like an old couple bickering. Huck came off as presidential material for sure, and his talk of working with unions wasn't a one time thing like the other candidates. He's been talking this up for some time. He is absolutely right that we need to focus more on the people for whom the economy is not working. He is also right in that the people need to reclaim government and elect someone who has gone through the same struggles that they have. All in all, another A-class performance.
While some may accuse me of bias as I am supporting Huckabee, it's pretty clear to most people watched the debate last night that Huck and Giuliani gave the best performances. In fact, former Bush aide Dan Bartlett saw it pretty much the same way. In fact, guess who he said was the winner last night and the best overall candidate? Now that's what I call vindication.