The Last Man Standing

Everyone had a relatively good night at the GOP debates in South Carolina. Rudy Giuliani got to steady his rocky abortion boat a bit and, more importantly, Sen. John McCain regained his footing by being himself and taking on Flip-Floppin’ Mitt Romney.

From the first question about Iraq McCain appeared calm but tough, and projected the vintage McCain self-assurance that had all but disappeared recently. He gave his best explanation yet of why stability in Iraq is in the vital interest of the United States, that we cannot fail, and said boldly, “I will be the last man standing, if necessary.”

McCain’s best moment came when he was asked about why he has seemingly retreated from his leadership on immigration reform. He explained that he has been “heavily engaged” in those talks and said firmly: “I intend to lead ... and I intend to get results and I intend to work on the hard things, not the easy things.”

Later on the subject of torture, McCain again commanded the moment and set himself apart. Though the audience clapped for the macho talk from his rivals who disagreed with him, they also applauded McCain when he said it’s not about the terrorists when it comes to interrogation practices, it’s about us, and that all the people with military experience — Colin Powell, et al. — have all agreed with his position.

If he can be himself and keep from turning back into the tense candidate who debated at the Reagan Library, when the nomination marathon ends, McCain still has the best chance of being the last man standing.