Mark Halperin, political correspondent for Time magazine, has another report card on the October 9 GOP candidates debate. As always, you can cast your vote on who won in the poll in the sidebar.
Fred Thompson, By Not Showing Up, won the Palousitics poll for the September 5 debate with 32% of the vote, followed by Ron Paul and Sam Brownback.
Stood toe-to-toe with Mitt Romney on fights over taxes and spending in the debate's hottest moment, and seemed to get the best of the exchange. Pounded the tax cutting theme. Went after Hillary Clinton (again). Talked about the Yankees (again). Closed strong (again). As we always say, every single day he survives on top, he grows stronger and gets closer to the nomination.
Frequent references to Michigan — where he grew up and where the debate was held — were clever and well received in the hall. Failed to take down Giuliani on the line-item veto or anything else, but was comfortable and fluid discussing trade and economic growth. Stumbled a bit over presidential prerogatives on going to war, but smartly shifted to bashing Iran. Still appears challenged on humor and feel-your-pain connection — too much robotic 0's-and-1's rhetoric, although his rehearsed dig at Fred "Law & Order" Thompson's late entrance into the race was by acclamation the line of the night.
Peppery on signature issue of spending cuts, salty on Iraq and Rumsfeld, but bland over all — he didn't dominate as in the last debate. More goosey than loosey (that is to say, he was spirited, but a little stiff). Because of poor acoustics, he requested that several questions be repeated, drawing unwelcome — and unfair — attention to the age issue. Proud, impatient, and looking forward to January.
Initial breaking voice and long pauses in early answers eventually smoothed out. Seemed a bit uncertain, and appeared to rely more on crammed notes and stock phrases than his famous confidence and big brain. As he got his sea legs, did a good job of talking about serious economic issues in his folksy, semi-populist manner, and he aced a pop quiz at the end by knowing the name of the prime minister of Canada (even if it appeared he had to think hard about it). Off-camera, his campaign demonstrated a heretofore-unseen ferocious mode in sending out opposition research on Giuliani and Romney. As for the candidate: Adequate for his first time out, given the pressure, but no great shakes.
A few crowd-pleasing lines (a Jetsons reference!) and personable and thoughtful as always, but somewhat lost in the shuffle. All the buzz in the world is not going to find him leap-frogging over the four guys ahead of him unless something changes.
Uncharacteristically restrained in response to a question about whether the Iraq War was started because of oil, although subsequent answers were lively and intense. Will likely once again see his donations increased and supporters rallied.
Sounded safe and sound on international economics. Got to pitch his plan to divide Iraq into three sectarian jurisdictions in a federal system. But offered no other contrast with the frontrunners or dramatic moments to change his fortunes.
Memo to the Congressman: America will never elect as President a person who seems desperate and upset. Lighten up (or, maybe, brighten up). Once again our broken record says: didn't rhetorically rise up on his one-issue-campaign issue of immigration.
Show of hands: who thinks the Honorable Congressman Duncan Hunter of California is positioned to be the next President of the United States, and who thinks that every minute he speaks he is taking time away from candidates with a real chance to win? The fat lady has been back in her dressing room, taking off her make-up, for several weeks.