Well, I missed the last 20 minutes of the first half of the Republican debate on CNN last night, but I caught some of that missed time this morning. This debate was marred by technical problems and Wolf Blitzer's incredibly annoying presence (once again, Anderson Cooper would've been a better moderator). However, the GOP candidates did a very good job of separating themselves from Bush...but at the same time maintaining their credentials as Republicans.
Anyway, here's a rundown on the candidates.
- Tommy Thompson attempted to make a joke about his shared last name with "the actor". I think my joke about calling him "Tommy Veto" was much funnier, and he should have run with it. Thompson sold himself, again, as a solid conservative. His statements about how Washington changed the GOP, and that the Democrats were "professional spenders" compared to Republicans hit very true. However, Tommy Veto lacks charisma, communication skills, inspiration, and is uglier than James Carville. Tommy's still out.
- Jim Gilmore did not harp on-and-on about being the "only true conservative" and refer back to his tenure as Governor of Virginia as much as he has previously. However, at the same time, Gilmore didn't really say much to make himself stand out. Even though he was on the lower end of the "time clock" in terms of speaking time, he got a substantial amount of speaking time during the first 40 minutes of the debate considering he's an outsider...and he could have really driven some points home, but he didn't. Gilmore is still out.
- Ron Paul appeared less "inspired" (read: angry) as before, and came across a bit like the "angry parent of America", scolding people for not reading the constitution. Ron has provided a spotlight for the more libertarian wing of the Republican party, but may have alienated a few people from embracing that wing in the process. Paul has been out.
- Sam Brownback is articulate, conservative, and is fiscally responsible...and should remain in the United States senate. Brownback should continue to make himself a powerful senator for the GOP, leading the conservative cause there. Where he lost me is when seemed to defend the immigration bill. Brownback is out.
- Tom Tancredo upped the ante last night. He was more forceful in his assertations. He really went after McCain and the immigration bill. He also established a firmer stance on Iraq, wasteful spending, and other issues. However, he still has a problem with articulating his points. I still find Tancredo to be a fine candidate, policy-wise, and I would put him in as a possible VP.
- Mike Huckabee had one great moment when deflecting the creationism/evolution question. Other than that, he really didn't distinguish himself that much. He came out a bit flatter and seemed a bit uninspired in his statements than he had been in previous debates, where he had shown some fire. However, Huckabee is still solid on many issues and I see him as another possible VP.
- Why is it that the more I see of Duncan Hunter, the more I like him? His Iraq strategy is sound, I love his immigration stance (the description of "his fence" was great), he stands conservative on other issues like taxes and government spending. Hunter's got some credentials, and he is a bit more distinguished from the rest of the pack due to his ability to communicate his message better than some of the others above. Hunter may not have enough "star power" to win the nomination due to the crowded field at the top, but he is a very strong VP candidate.
- John McCain didn't mince words when it came to the immigration issue. He stated that he was doing what the people elected him to do, which is go to Washington and work out solutions to problems. However, what he fails to realize is that sometimes compromise isn't the best way to go. McCain has dropped as low as 4th, most believe his time as a possible presidential candidate has passed, and I'm inclined to agree. McCain is on his way out, and he can thank this immigration bill for it.
- Mitt Romney bounced back from a fairly flat performance in the 2nd debate to really establish himself as a credible contender for the GOP nomination. His answers were clear, crisp, and direct. Romney is another excellent communicator and was impressive in how he handled the questions without hesitation or word-fumbling. I'm seeing that his conversion to more conservative viewpoints has become less of an issue, and I think his religion will become less of an issue as time goes on. Romney is definitely in.
- Rudy Guiliani did well enough, but not outstandingly so. He was also direct, and was very good at directing his criticism at where the GOP (namely the Bush administration) has gone wrong and what needs to be fixed in Washington. He was strong on national security and on immigration, which are huge conservative points right now. Rudy is also definitely in.
The top three in the race (Rudy, Mitt, and Fred Thompson) all seem to draw appeal for several main factors. One, they're not part of the current "Capitol Hill gang", Thompson left the Senate while GOP was still popular, Rudy was mayor of NYC, and Mitt was Governor of Massachusetts. I think that, as a whole, the GOP voters would prefer an "outsider" of sorts to represent them in the 2008 race.