I would have liveblogged the debate last night, but instead I thought it was better to go out to dinner with my lovely wife.  Fortunately Fox News replayed the debate.  I’m surprised that we are having another one so soon after having two over the weekend.  Just a tad much I think.  By and large it was a lively debate and pretty well moderated.

By the candidate:

Mitt Romney:  He likely didn’t hurt himself or really help himself for that matter.  He best response was on the economy.  How to prevent recession?  1. Stop housing crisis.  2. Tax cuts for the middle class.  3. Address price of gas.  4. Invest more in research and development.  He was pretty vague in his response to the question about Massachusetts having the third slowest job growth in the nation during his term.  His response to the abortion coverage in Massachusetts universal health care plan being the result of a court decision needs to be verified.  “I came down on the side of life as governor.”  Really now?

He did have a pretty good statement about foreign policy:

Today, foreign policy is no longer like it was in the last century, which was more like a game of checkers that was our side and their side. We tried to get friends and allies and go after each other. Now foreign policy is more like three-dimensional chess, where we have to understand all the players throughout the world and develop strategies to help move the world towards more stability and safety for ourselves,” he said. “We need to think more broadly than just those hot spots and come together with other developed nations … and develop an effort to help move the world of Islam towards modernity.

John McCain: Not a bad debate for him either.  I didn’t care for his position on global warming, but do agree that the Republican party does need to consider the principles of  Teddy Roosevelt Republicanism.  He as always is solid on Iraq and War on Terror.  Having been a Navy Commander he said that he placed confidence in the ships’ captains (during the Strait of Hormuz incident with the Iranians).

McCain had a great statement on the Iraq surge and possible reduction of troops:

I’m telling you, it’s succeeding. And these young people are going to come home. But it’s not going to be decided by any politician in Washington. It’s going to be decided by the man that should have been Time magazine man of the year, General David Petraeus. That’s who should decide when American troops come home.

Fred Thompson: He’s awake!  He had some great one liners.  He really didn’t say much about his record.  Perhaps because there isn’t much there.  He was on a Mike Huckabee hit parade, probably because if he doesn’t do well in South Carolina where Mike Huckabee is a frontrunner (in most polls – 2nd in today’s) he’s done.  Frank Luntz’ focus group had a Thompson love-in (probably out of shock that he is alive), but something that was pretty noteworthy was that there was a sense of “too little, too late.”

Fred Thompson’s money quote:

You can’t take the judgment like that out of the hands of the officers on the ground there. I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing.

Mike Huckabee:  He was straight forward in addressing growing the economy by reducing our dependency on oil (in light of the high gas prices, among other things), dealing with subprime mortgages (he did say President Bush is handling it well without using taxpayer money to bail people out), he said that we also need to address healthcare costs and education cots.  He said that we must not raise taxes, but cut mariginal taxes and the best thing of all pass the Fair Tax.  He also gave a good answer to the Strait of Hormuz question.  The money quote that received the best response from the Luntz focus group:

I think we need to make it very clear, not just to the Iranians, but to anybody, that if you think you’re going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle. Be prepared, first, to put your sights on the American vessel. And then be prepared that the next things you see will be the gates of Hell, because that is exactly what you will see after that.

He also turned an out-of-line question about religion around and was able to present his position on marriage and family values which will definitely appeal to social conservatives.

Update: Video on his answer to Carl Cameron’s question.  Awesome.

Rudy Giuliani: Regarding staving off recession Giuliani referred to his tax plan, but also said that we need to cut spending, and said that we need regulatory reform.  I laughed out loud when he called himself a conservative when talking about the Reagan coalition (social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and defense conservatives).  He labels himself such because he believes in a strong national defense and lower taxes/spending cuts.  Regarding social concerns, “we believe in the same goals, but disagree with methods.”  Whatever… he thinks it is perfectly ok to not only allow, but fund the innocent slaughter of a child in his mother’s womb.  But, that’s ok, at least he’ll appoint strict constructionalist judges to the bench.

Just a quick digression here.  I have not seen anyone in the Republican establishment hammer Giuliani on this issue.  I mean Huckabee is labeled a liberal because he doesn’t tow the Club for Growth line, but I haven’t heard one pundit call Giuliani a liberal – which he clearly is, at least socially.  But we hear from the establishment and the elite… “it’s ok.  He’ll appoint the right kind of judges.”  That’s nice what about the Mexico City policy?  Will he allow the federal funding of abortions?  There is a lot that a president can do via executive order.  When Huckabee says he’ll cut spending – the establishment and elite don’t believe him, but give Giuliani a pass when he said he’ll appoint strict constructionalist judges.  I am sickened by the double standard, and it shows me where their priorities lie, but I digress.

I really don’t think Giuliani’s performance was that wonderful, he didn’t hurt, but he didn’t help either.  Lackluster. 
He did make a good statement on Iran, however.

I think an incident like this reminds us that we shouldn’t be lulled into some false sense of confidence about Iran. We have to be very focused on the fact that Iran should not be allowed to become a nuclear power. We should make it very, very clear that we’re not going to allow that, and we should go to every country that we can think of to impose serious sanctions on Iran.

Ron Paul: What to say about Congressman Paul.  First off, I’m glad they included him in this debate.  I think that Fox News made the wrong decision in not including him in last Sunday night’s debate in New Hampshire.  Especially in light of the fact that he had 10% in the Iowa Caucus (beating Giuliani), and was polling ahead (and beat) Fred Thompson in New Hampshire.  I do, however think that he is out of touch with reality.  For instance his take on the Strait of Hormuz issue with Iran:

Let’s put it in perspective. We have five small speedboats attacking the U.S. Navy with a Destroyer? They could take care of those speedboats in about five seconds. And here we’re ready to start World War III over this? … You know there are people in this administration and in Washington, D.C., that are looking for the chance” to bomb Iran.

Has he forgotten about the U.S.S. Cole?  The boat that attacked it was little, but still killed 19 sailors and injured many more, not to mention disabled the ship.  Maybe the Navy should just allow these speed boats to come right up on them.  What is this guy thinking?  Then most of his other answers were incoherent ranting.  The statement he made on funding Israel’s neighbors was an interesting point, and one that the next administration should consider.

The winners – no clear winner out this I think.  Many say Thompson, but I think that is because he shocked everybody by being awake in this debate.  The only clear loser was Ron Paul, but I didn’t really have any expectations there.  That’s my take.  I’m going to post on the Thompson vs. Huckabee exchange in a separate post because old Fred needs to be corrected.

Update:  Some reactions to the debate.

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