I watched the debate, but didn’t have a working Internet connection yesterday, so I’m just catching up now. To start, let me just say that given that this debate took place on a Sunday morning in August, only the biggest political junkies were watching, so it’s especially unlikely that it will mean much. Furthermore, there weren’t any truly memorable moments (i.e. Rudy vs. Ron Paul in the second debate). With that said, here are some of my thoughts.
Rudy Giuliani gave another strong performance. He was able to bat away the social issues question early, and offer strong answers on national security and economic issues. He did a great job of challenging the premise of the questions, attacking Democrats whenever he got the chance, offering a unique perspective on policy, and displaying quick wit. He also effectively weaved in his practical experiences as mayor of New York to demonstrate points — raising more revenue through lower taxes, managing the city’s extensive bridge system, and treating security as a necessary precursor for citizens in a free society to be able to exercise their freedoms. Giuliani’s positions on some issues no doubt still make him unacceptable to a certain number of voters, but right now he is running in a way that gives him the best chance to win.
Mitt Romney may be getting kudos for his canned line about Barack Obama going from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove, but in my view his answers on abortion were an utter embarrassment, and justify a separate post.
During the height of the John McCain doom and gloom, I predicted he would survive because the defeat of the immigration bill meant that the dominant issue would shift from immigration to Iraq, on which he is in agreement with conservatives. This debate performance largely confirmed that view. His answers on national security were all strong, and with the exception of the Cheney question, I think conservatives would find little to disagree with him on during this debate. I still don’t think he has a realistic chance of becoming the party’s nominee, but he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Of the other candidates, the only one I felt stood out was Duncan Hunter. In his retort to Ron Paul on Iraq, and in his answer on Pakistan, he displayed a command of many specific foreign policy details while other candidates opted to paint with broad strokes.