I didn't think Iraq got much attention.
I don't think any of the lower or second-tier candidates got themselves into the top tier by last night's performance, although of the bottom seven, I suspect Mike Huckabee might have faired the best of them and could manage to hang around a while in this race, if dis-satisfaction with the top tier continues.
Guliani probably had a good night, and I think he handled the abortion issue well, highlighting the need to restrict the coercive power of government, and the need to reduce abortion, rather than just condemn them (which is of course a Democratic argument--funny how many of those popped up during the debate--see Paul, Ron; McCain, John). It'd be nice if a candidate from either party would say a good word about the Right to Privacy. But I guess that's expecting a lot.
None of the candidates is campaigning on continuing and building on the great progress made by this administration. All speak as if government is "broken", in McCain's words, although neither he nor any of the others enlightened us as to why government was "broken" even though Republicans held the House and much of the Congress for the past 12 years and the presidency for the last six.
I thought McCain and Paul deserve kudos for boldness. Paul obviously committed the greatest sin of the evening by suggesting that 911 was a result of "blowback" (another liberal, dirty commy hippy argument held only by the Democrat Party which hates America). McCain highlighted how excess money flowing into Washington has corrupted "his own party". I thought that was a pretty strong statement given the audience.
I thought the Fox crew actually did a decent job, following up candidates' responses and holding candidates accountable for not answering questions by repeating them after a candidate had answered a question with a sound bite speech unrelated and unresponsive to the question asked. More of this please.
I thought Gilmore and Thompson did poorly. Thompson was asked what government program he was prepared to eliminate and he mumbled something about "stockpiles" of something at the CDC. Paul followed this up with advocating the elimination of the Depart of Ed, Energy and a few others. Gilmore fumbled a number of times. Not sure why he's in this race. Thompson showed he knew a lot about stem cell research--probably too much. He needed a simple, values based answer here and he went into policy wonkism.
Duncan Hunter seemed to me to be the candidate least inclined to posture. He never looked at the audience but only looked at the questioner (something I noticed Dick Cheney do with some effectiveness in the VP debate with Lieberman in 2000). Hunter was serious. Maybe too serious.
Some of the questioning seemed tailored to the candidates' known policy concerns (immigration for Tancredo, trade with China for Hunter) which makes a certain kind of sense, but I thought it would have been more interesting to here some of these lower tier or single issue candidates hold forth on abortion or Iraq.
Romney makes my skin crawl.
And McCain still looks stiff and old, although he did manage to appear cheery, optimistic and principled, a return to form of sorts to his 2000 persona.
As it appears now, though, Rudy could win this thing. How about that, a pro-choice GOP nominee. Who'd a thunk it?