Confident and near-cocky for the second straight debate. Easily deflected Romney and Giuliani attempts to take him down a notch. Got to talk about spending and defense for much of the night (his strengths) and even did just fine on the economy (an acknowledged weakness). Also managed the immigration issue without too much wobbling. His tone and demeanor reflected the view of his staff: unless someone stops him pronto, he will be the 2008 nominee of the Republican Party. And no one stopped him in this debate
Scored points with his plain-speaking about the middle-class squeeze, the only one in the field to do so with conviction and strength. Followed his normal practice of refusing to be distracted or ruffled when challenged by his rivals or journalists. Came across as a likable guy — which sure helped him in Iowa. But more substance might be required to earn him the nomination.
Still struggling to balance his natural inclination to be optimistic with the need to create sharp contrasts with his formidable rivals for the nomination. With an eye on Michigan, tried to pick a fight with McCain over the economy, but it fizzled. Still, South Carolinians paying attention for the first time were likely impressed by his "looks and sounds like a president" comportment and responses.
Delivered clever barbs all night in his Southern deadpan, which made him the apparent crowd favorite. Took on Huckabee — finally — with a litany of alleged liberal positions, but the governor coolly sloughed it off without fireworks. Went after McCain on immigration, but failed to wound. Not yet fired up and ready to go, but launched a vivid flare nonetheless.
Forcefully challenged McCain over ownership of the suddenly-popular surge for the first time in a debate. But he once again came into the session without a calculated strategy for winning the night. Repeated old lines from past debates, even though those lines have for many months failed to sustain his early polling lead. Still, his eye is fixed further south — on Florida.
Whiny, shrill, pleading, and disapproving — just the way his legions of supporters like him. Consistently revs up his base, without expanding it. As other candidates drop out, it will be interesting to see if he will be allowed in future debates.
Friday, January 11, 2008
January 10 Republican Debate Report Card
Mark Halperin, political correspondent for Time magazine, has another report card on the January 10 GOP candidates debate in Myrtle Beach, SC.