Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 12 Republican Debate Report Card

Mark Halperin, political correspondent for Time magazine, has another report card on the December 12 GOP candidates debate in Des Moines. As always, you can cast your vote on who won in the poll in the sidebar (sorry about the annoying Bravenet popups, but the Blogger poll tool is useless.) I missed the November YouTube debate because I was in Mexico. I'll get the report cards up for that debate and the Univision debate up soon.

Ron Paul won the Palousitics poll for the October 21 debate with 27% of the vote, followed by Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

Mike Huckabee
Grade: A-

Cleverly shifted away from being spry and dramatic as an underdog to being serious, calm, and leader-like as a frontrunner. Raised his game — and took a bit of a chance — by emphasizing the importance of bipartisanship and outreach for the next president. Likely breathed a sigh of relief when the moderator announced at the outset that Iraq and immigration would not be major topics. Despite all the pre-debate build-up, biggest challenge (from Tom Tancredo) was about arts education! Above all, demonstrated why he is stylistically a fantastic fit for what Iowans like in their leaders, and kept his momentum on track.

Fred Thompson
Grade: B+

Smooth, FUNNY, and relaxed. Took advantage of his position in the center of the stage and of his height to at times dominate the proceedings, as when he led a revolt against the moderator's attempt to get yes/no answers to complicated questions. Getting the hang of how to debate and leverage his strengths, just as the debates are coming to an end.

John McCain
Grade: B

More articulate and intense than usual — fewer stumbles and a higher percentage of on-message statements. Played perfectly the only role that could lead him back to the top, positioning himself as the last reasonable man left standing if the rest fall away — relinquishing the mantle of hot-headed media darling to portray himself as the candidate people can trust in the end.

Rudy Giuliani
Grade: B

Pleasantly conversational, even on difficult issues, such as abortion and his personal failings. Articulate heralding the free market, but still short of specifics on spending cuts. Might come off as too New York for Iowans, but, as the mayor himself points out, his candidacy is not based on winning (or even showing) in the January 3 caucuses. Probably didn't boost his Iowa standing but didn't hurt himself nationally.

Mitt Romney
Grade: B

Much more like the Romney of earlier debates — pleasant, relaxed, and comfortable — rather than the edgy, uncomfortable version of late. Emphasized his private sector experience and Washington-outsider credentials, and talked about the middle class and families in ways that have Hawkeye State appeal. But didn't do a blessed thing to halt Huckabee and did not rise above the crowd more than a time or two.

Tom Tancredo
Grade: B-

Best debate so far by far. Reached out to passionately challenge other candidates on issues of importance to him. Bashed NAFTA as part of his overarching concern about border control. But was still more of a scold than an optimistic, big-thinking leader.

Ron Paul
Grade: C+

So consistent in tone, emphasis, and overall style, it is freaky. Truly one of the most consistent debate performers since the cathode ray tube was invented. But, thus, didn't seem to do anything to expand his reach.

Duncan Hunter
Grade: D

This might have been the last presidential debate ever for Duncan Hunter and he made just as much a mark as he has in the past debates.

Alan Keyes
Grade: F

Picked up without dropping a single stitch right where he left off eight years ago — bullying, moralizing, sniping, and, yet, oddly compelling. Still, America's presidential selection process has enough carnival elements in it already without inviting a perpetual jester onto the stage. Overran his allotted time and (you can bet on it) inspired his passionate followers with almost every answer.

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