Even after a night’s sleep, I am amazed at how badly all the GOP candidates did last night in their appearances after the results were clear. First, Mitt Romney’s trick of knocking John McCain off the air was utterly reprehensible, a cheap schoolyard trick that reflects very very poorly on his character. His own speech was pretty good (bordering, but no crossing into demagoguery), but not great; but meanwhile, the one-upsmanship was cringe-inducing.
McCain, meanwhile, may have made some nice remarks, but we didn’t see them. He actually cut into Huckabee’s speech, which wasn’t terribly nice, and he also looked like one of those spry old men who everybody sort of likes but who aren’t really taken seriously. Not that McCain isn’t taken seriously, but he just didn’t look presidential, somehow.
In various appearances I saw, Mike Huckabee was seriously losing his nice-guy image. His barbs keep getting more pointed and nasty-sounding, which means they do more to counteract his carefully built image than the same barbs would from a guy whose image all along is that of a tough guy. He seems a little desperate — and no matter how he spins it, the results last night were particularly poor for him, because just a week ago there were polls showing him in a virtual three-way tie in Michigan. He faltered badly there, and the bloom may be off his rose.
Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, ran ads on Fox. Something about the ads is just too grim. I don’t think they struck the right tone.
Fred Thompson, for his part, was surly with Sean Hannity. It was bizarre, because there is nobody in America who has given Thompson more positive air time in the past year than Hannity has. Yes, Hannity’s questions were off topic, annoying and repetitive (how many times can somebody ask whether the interviewee is going to “go negative” against John McCain?!? — and frankly, why does that matter?), but Thompson had a perfect chance to smile and talk to Hannity like a friend and then at least attempt to change the subject to his own positive attributes. Instead, Thompson got grouchy awfully quickly and kept trying to DEFEND himself by saying that, well, yes, he WAS drawing distinctions with everybody in the field. He did not come across as a guy riding a wave of late momentum. And I wonder if his dull TV ad is proving not to have the desired effect.
If this is the best all the GOP candidates can do, get ready for President Clinton II (or, still less likely, President Obama).