Thursday, May 3, 2007

The winners (and the loser) in the Republican debate

Unlike the Democratic debate, I think this was a debate with clear winners and losers. One winner was John McCain, who turned in a vigorous performance, got the most laughs of the night, and delivered a forceful response to questions about his age. On Iraq he did about as well as he could, given that he’s defending an escalation of the war. He managed to distance himself from Bush by criticizing the mismanagement of the war. He also stood out by slamming pork barrel spending and vowing to clean spending bill, saving special criticism for cost overruns in military bills. (My only question: who exactly is going to “follow us home” from Iraq? The Shiites? The Sunnis? Al Qaeda? I think it’s clear that even if we pull out that neither the Shiites nor the Sunni militias would tolerate an al Qaeda mini-state in Iraq.) Nonetheless, a strong performance overall from the senator from Arizona.

The other winner was Mitt Romney. He just seemed presidential. As a Massachusetts native, I’m not a huge Romney fan. He ran for governor as a pro-choice, pro-gay rights moderate, and then flip-flopped to set up his run for president. But I will say this: he certainly is competent and charismatic, and it showed on stage. He did a great job defending the Massachusetts health care plan.

The big loser was Giuliani. His defense of a woman’s right to choose stuck out like a sore thumb in the Republican field. Props to him for not completely flip-flopping like Romney, but it’s going to hurt him. His more moderate positions might be an advantage in the general election but they sure aren’t here.

As for everyone else: Ron Paul did a good job representing the paleoconservative wing of the party. Tom Tancredo managed to differentiate himself on immigration without frothing at the mouth like he usually does. (Although I’m a little disturbed by how completely he conflates American and Israeli interests. I’m all for supporting an ally, but still… ). Tommy Thompson did a decent job, but how exactly does he think he’s going to implement his partition plan for Iraq? The Iraqis don’t want it, and last time I checked we handed control of the government back to them. None of the other candidates really stood out.

Overall, the level of the debate was higher than I expected, but I don't think the party-line conservatism supported by most of the candidates stands a chance against the Democrats come 2008.

No comments: