Have been traveling, so I didn’t catch the debate until the rebroadcast and it seems it was already well covered. But one thing that surprises me is that anybody would consider Romney’s performance “impressive.” I thought it was a disaster. In the midst of the fight with Giuliani, Romney said that this isn’t about taxes and spending where they both agree, but about the line-item veto. Huh? Why would Romney concede 99% of the argument to Giuliani–the part that voters will actually care about–and focus on the consititutionality of the line-item veto? Furthermore, Romney then shifted the debate to the Bush line-item veto that “passed Constitutional muster” — but that wasn’t the one that Giuliani sued over.
Then, of course, there was the gaffe of the night, in which Romney said if he were considering an attack on Iran, he’d first consult lawyers. That was damaging on several levels. It reinforces the image of him as calculating and artificial, since it seemed like that was his way of avoiding the question. Also, Romney has a lot of ground to make up on the national security issue with McCain and Giuliani, and this just makes him look weaker and less decisive (as well as ignorant of the powers of the office he’s seeking).
So, I thought Romney was the big, big, loser. After that, I thought Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson also did well in their own way. Fred got better as the night went on, and came off as likeable. Also, when he passed the Canadian prime minister pop quiz with flying colors it showed the audience that he isn’t some big blundering oaf that some in the media have been portraying him as. Also, Fred’s “I thought I was going to be the best actor on stage” line was a nice comeback to Romney’s awkward and unfunny prepared joke.