GOP Round 3: Full Impressions

Now that I’ve had the chance to give the full Republican debate a listen, I’ve got some impressions (I’ll start with the lower tiers just for fun):

Ron Paul: He only seemed sane because he wasn’t asked about the war as much. But I hear
Mike Gravel is looking for a running mate…

Tommy Thompson: Pi-ti-ful.

Mike Huckabee: I’ve been surprised at how well he’s carried himself, and Round 3 was no exception. Not amazing (especially when mixing up Reagan’s birthday & anniversary of death), but a good performance. Too bad it’s all for naught.

Sam Brownback: “Three-state political solution,” “comprehensive reform,” blah blah blah. No thanks.

Tom Tancredo: Blunt talk, but pretty unpolished. His biggest flaw, though, is that he doesn’t get it on Iraq. Congressman, this war is about preventing the jihadists from becoming Iraq’s dominant force, which would have disastrous ramifications beyond her borders—not merely what the Iraqis will make of our sacrifice. But he definitely had the ‘whoa’ moment of the night when he said, as President, he’d have no choice but to ask George W. Bush not to “darken the door” of his White House. No arguments here.

Jim Gilmore: I’m sorry, but who are you again?

Duncan Hunter: Another job well done. If we were to totally throw away the “who can win” factor, Hunter would be my man, hands down (if only Hunter had been the guy to trade DC for Hollywood for a few years!). But he’s gotta be in the running for VP. At 58 years old, he’d be in a pretty darn good position after 8 years of a good conservative White House. (I was disappointed that he didn’t give Scooter Libby’s plight its proper consideration, though.)

John McCain: I liked his answer about the disastrous alternatives to the troop surge, plus his line about making pork spenders “infamous.” Overall, McCain has managed to lock down the tone issue of his past performances—instead of angry & unhinged, he came across as passionate, confident & in control. Too bad this development comes on the heels of Amnestygate.

Rudy Giuliani: An interesting show. Once again his abortion answer was indefensible (I’d think long & hard about that lightning, pal), and while his immigration answer was carefully worded to sound harsh, his only beef is with identification—no concern whatsoever for the fence, for the effects of amnesty, etc. But I have to admit I was surprised at how much his answers about the war impressed me. In none of Rudy’s past speeches, TV appearances, etc., have I seen the fiery leader others are smitten with. Last night was the first time I saw a hint of man who takes this fight seriously. He also gets points for his Libby defense. So can you count me among the smitten? Not by a long shot. I still can’t respect Rudy Giuliani the man, and I still believe Rudy Giuliani the nominee will have devastating effects on the party, movement & nation. Hear me, conservatives: THIS MAN MUST BE STOPPED (by the way, did you notice my Stop Rudy sidebar?). But if worse comes to worse, what about Rudy in a general election? He’ll have to do a lot more than this to show me that his terrorism and free-market answers aren’t just a repeat of his immigration answer: all style, no substance.

Mitt Romney: Well done, but not without a few bumps in the road. What I liked: terror remarks, Libby answer, “I’m not going to apologize for becoming pro-life,” the
perfect answer to the Mormon question, immigration sentiments, the “three-pillared stool” analogy for the Republican coalition (free markets, strong defense, & family values), and lip service to ANWR drilling. Not so hot: I bet some viewers will still be understandably-unsure how his healthcare plan differs from Hillarycare, his answer about oil company profits was unclear (I won’t contest his grasp of where they’d be best spent, but you’re not talking about government forcing them to spend their own money a certain way, are you?), and any 6-year-old could’ve told Team Romney that running Spanish ads would come back to bite ‘em before long.

BONUS CANDIDATE—Fred Thompson: He’s got an appealing demeanor, and I applaud his answer about Libby (even better than Rudy’s & Mitt’s). But did anyone else in the “conservative alternative” crowd notice how weak his abortion answer was? But Fred’s biggest flaw was that his sparring partner was Sean Hannity—not the ten men who, whatever else may be said of them, have dived into the fray and put their reputations on the line in three debates so far. Besides Fred’s other conservative deficiencies (McCain-Feingold, impeachment, etc.), doesn’t anyone else find his lateness in declaring just a bit smarmy? (
Apparently not.)

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