George made his intentions clear as he started the debate... Conflict and true Debate... He did not want the candidates to merely answer the questions, rather to face off against their fellow candidates to draw clear and defining lines between each of them... most likely in an attempt to better "sell" the candidates as a defined product. He started by playing a "Brownback Robo-Phone Message" which directly attacked Romney and Romney's wife on their support for abortion and groups like Planned Parenthood... Then following by asking Brownback to defend the message and confront Romney directly... It was a good day for bloodletting!
The overall mood of the debate is that the Republican party is stuck with a negative perception and low enthusiasm, as was indicated with the second to last question: What is the biggest regret in your life? So Democrats get uplifting questions about favorite teachers and greatest memories, where Republican nominees are "whipped" into submission by the mainstream moderators, forced to contemplate on their life and answer where they went wrong... Perhaps this is beneficial, as it shows the ability to understand their mistakes and show growth from them... (the two losers on that question were Brownback - "I don't tell me family that I love them enough", and Rudy - "You know, I need a priest to talk about all my mistakes"... yeah... I want another "Bill Clinton" in office?)
Let me break down my thoughts towards each candidate's performance, in order of the ABC Iowa poll for who is leading the state:
Mitt Romney (26%) - Mitt Romney spends most of his debate tiem, as it seems, defending his waffling stance on issues like abortion. Today's debate was no different. Romney's goal in the Iowa debate (as the most viewers of this debate will most likely be local to Iowa) was to maintain the status quo... as the front-runner he attempted to fit in his canned responses, while defending his history of being on both sides of many issues. It is a lesson in creative speaking to watch this guy on stage...
Rudy Giuliani (14%) - Well, we were all glad that Rudy decided to play with the others today... Rudy is becoming less engaged in debates and the process, as he clearly expects to receieve the nomination. His performance in this debate pretty much etched in stone his continuation of Bush policies in the White House. His liberal stances on social issues aside, some of the comments he made during this debate may have sealed his fate in the general election should he get the nomination... "He is the follow on to Bush, Bush part II..." I can just hear the Democratic nominee now! Not to mention Rudy's admittance that he would follow the ideas of Barack Obama in bombing Pakistan, our ally, as opposed to supporting their government in taking action against BinLaden. Such a move would surely unseat the uneasy President of Pakistan.
Mike Huckabee (8%) - Mike's great oratory skills helped him get the point across, and stay on message in this debate... He may have been the only candidate who did not stumble on their words, trying to make sure that they weren't waffling on an issue. The one thing that Mike Huckabee did not do is place the emphasis on the fact that he is polling third in the state, and gaining momentum. Mike's shining moment was when he stated that we need to spend our billions of dollars building our own infrastructure, and building democracy at home, before we try it around the world... in response to a question about our crumbling and aged infrastructure, i.e. the NY steam pipe explosion and the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
John McCain (8%) - John McCain's age is starting to show... not just in his apparent fatigue at these events, but in his constant retelling of "jokes" that only a senile old man would find interesting time and again. And in case you all didn't know, McCain reminded us at least five mroe times that he was in the military, he was a POW, and did I mention that he was a POW in the military during Vietnam for 5 and a half years?
Sam Brownback (5%) - Sam continued his mudslinging and attacks against all the candidates... Brownbacks overconfidence reflects his opinion that he is the Mesiah figure of the debates... his facial responses reflect his Christian-elitist stance, and his verbal responses, filled with mud, are reminiscent of a boring Al Gore... as if Gore could get any more boring... His repsonses were shakey and lacked confidence in himself, though he was clearly confident that his "purity" is much more than any other candidate's.
Tom Tancredo (5%) - I love Tom's steadfast support of strong immigration enforcement... notice I did not say reform... Tom lost his temper early on and demanded time to speak, after standing silent for nearly 25 minutes as all the other candidates had one, tow, or more opportunities to respond. Tom shook things up a bit when he stood by his repsonse to nuke Mecca and Medina if the US was ever nuked by Radical Islam... Tom spoke more clearly and eloquently than in any of his past debate perfomances... He is getting there, and though he may not win, his momentum in the state is keeping the spotlight on immigration!
Tommy Thompson (4%) - The hardest part about watching these debates is sitting by and watching campaigns give "wrapping up" statements... that is, Thompson knows that this will most likely be his last debate... he has said that unless he has a strong showing in the straw poll that he is out... and his remarks today reflected that. He went from campaigning for President to interviewing for VP or Health Board, etc... The strangest remark was that he will eradicate breast cancer by 2014. If only it were that easy... Perhaps more funding and free yearly screenings for women would help the fight, but I wonder if his remark wasn't more emotional (as his mother, wife, and daughter are all victims of Breast Cancer) than logical.
Ron Paul (2%) - Though every online poll would show Ron Paul at 56% and a shoe-in for the Oval Office, his lack of ACTUAL traction may be in part to his VERY Libertarian stance. He said some great things to back up other candidates on issues like reduced role of the federal government (trust me, Rudy was NOT one of those candidates calling for less federal control), and his stance of non-interventionism in world affairs would make the founding fathers proud. It is refreshing to see a candidate who trusts the founding fathers so completely, and understands the original intent of what America was all about... (trust me, the patriot act and strong federal government to the point that state and local governemnt need not apply is NOT the original intent). Ron Paul still is a horrible communicator, and his performance this morning began to sound more like a nagging spouse or child than a Presidential Candidate.
Duncan Hunter (1%) - Congressman Hunter, much like Thommy Thompson, began wrapping up his campaign with this debate. He used the opportunity to give thanks to the US Marines, his son, and his supporters... His remarks were the exclaimation point to his campaign, demanding that he be known as the candidate who is strongest on defense in it's ture sense (that is a strong military and secure borders) where as Rudy would be more of the New World Order candidate of shadow governments and secretive governments. Duncan Hunter will be missed, but hopefully his followers support one of the other "underdog" candidates who can take the party back from the NWO-Republicans...
In all, the winners of the debate, based on substance of answers, confidence in response, issues knowledge, and direction for the party, are as follows:
Huckabee - Tancredo - Hunter - Romney - Paul - McCain - Giuliani - Thompson - Brownback
Can we expect to see any surge in the Straw Poll based on this debate... My guess is to say "very little".
What should we expect after next Saturday's straw poll results are posted...
Duncan Hunter will gracefully bow out of the race sometime in the week following the poll. Polling at 1% and expected to finish last in the race, Hunter will go back to his Hosue District in California more popular than ever and help his son's campaign to take his House Seat. Yes, Hunter is not only bowing out of the Presidential race, but giving up his seat to his son, who is set to come back from Iraq in time for the race.
Shortly after Hunter leaves the race, we can expect to see T. Thompson move on as well, as his numbers have no momentum and his funding is dwindling.
Ron Paul will stick around for some time longer, as this is free publicity for his run on the Libertarian ticket in the 2008 race... remember, third parties will be the big winners in 2008.
The rest will hang on if they finish as the poll numbers above have shown... Brownback to continue his Christian Crusade, and possibly his eventual run on the ticket for the Constitution Party (where he would fit right in), McCain because he doesn't know when to quit, Romney because he thinks he has a shot, Rudy because he believes that he is entitled to be the next President, and Huckabee because he may be the only candidate who has a real shot of winning.
Long winded... but needed to be said.