GOP debate: top tier intact

04 May 2007 |permalink | email article

Iran and social issues like abortion rights and immigration stood out in last night’s TV debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. But the event did little to change the perception that Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney remain in the bland top tier for the Republican nomination.

McCain seemed to have the most passion, energy and a recovered straight talk presence, while Giuliani was more subdued and Romney emerged as a flashy television personality, if a little too calculating. Then there were the seven dwarfs.

Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and now a MSNBC commentator, based on a large e-mail blitz, anointed Romney as “breaking out of the pack.” So did Politico’s Roger Simon. It’s a very long season and if Mitt is as good as it gets then the GOP is in real trouble.

This was a night of predictable homage in invoking the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a contest easily won by a fawning Giuliani. By contrast, President Bush was barely mentioned but McCain and Mike Huckabee were the toughest in questioning his management of the war. Osama bin Laden was targeted by McCain and Guiliani but Afghanistan, the birthplace of 9/11, never surfaced.

Surprisingly, the candidates agreed on a very muscular policy regarding Iran. Giuliani and Romney had more nuanced positions on abortion as opposed to the right to life majority.

Hillary Clinton came in for predictable derision because she’s the candidate the eventual GOP nominee wants to run against the most.

The major problem with the event was its the rapid-fire questioning, a format which cut off answers in mid sentence and allowed each candidate less total time than Barack Obama, the top talker in recent Democratic debate, who spoke for 18 minutes. 

But overall, it was the biggest political effort yet to turn a televised debate into an Internet user experience, guided by The Politico.



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