Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

You Say Rudy Was Most Damaged By Debate

More than half (57%) of voters in our latest Quick Poll! thought Rudy Giuliani, of all the leading GOP candidates, had done most damage to his presidential chances in last week's debate. John McCain was the choice of 34% and Mitt Romney scored just 9%.

Some commentators disliked the question, seeing it as biased because of its assumption that damage had been done, and also because there was no similar poll after the Democrats' debate. The question arose, however, because of widespread dissatisfaction among Republicans with the candidates' performances. Some said McCain was too scripted, others said Giuliani gradually came to pieces. There was no similar dispute after the Democrats' debate; it was widely agreed that the worst flub that night was Barack Obama's answer to a question about what he would do in the event of 911-type terrorist attack on the US.

The choice of Giuliani as the most undermined by the debate accords the view of our pundit, Dick Morris, that the debate organizers robber the former New York Mayor of significant air time.

For Thompson, 'Ordinary' Won't Cut It (A.B. Stoddard)

As of last Friday morning, the day after the first GOP presidential debate, the breathlessness over the potential candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) continued, full steam. Would he announce in Orange County, home to the birth of the Reagan Revolution?

But Thompson reportedly didn't wow them at the Lincoln Club, as expected, according to the mixed reviews. Thompson hit the right notes, talking about bipartisanship and strong leadership, but Bob Novak weighed in with what at this critical juncture is the Kiss of Death, calling Thompson's performance there "ordinary."

Rudy Was Short Changed

Thursday's Republican debate, hosted by MSNBC and was biased against Republican front runner Rudy Giuliani. A count of the words each candidate spoke indicates that Romney was given 50% more air time and McCain 25% more than Giuliani was permitted.

Romney spoke 2300 words to McCain's 2030 and Giuliani's 1603. When the airtime is as heavily skewed in favor of the 2nd and 3rd place candidates against the front runner, one is entitled to ask why. With more than a third of Republicans backing Giuliani and interested in what he has to say, what journalistic justification is there for giving him less face time than his two leading rivals?

The Democratic Party has been concentrating its fire on Rudy for months now and this effort by two Democratic news organs to short change Giuliani is part of the process of trying to defeat the only Republican who can win in November.

Dull Debate

I admit that I didn’t watch the Republican debate live last night. I had an important engagement that was far more interesting than the series of sound bites elicited by Chris Matthews. But I did catch the rerun. And I promptly fell asleep.

It is too early for these debates. There are too many people in them. And they don’t really illuminate real issues for the American people.

Matthews loves to ask about abortion and evolution. How ’bout a coherent discussion of trade and our nation’s slipping competitiveness? How ’bout a really good discussion about tax policy? How ’bout if each candidate gives us five minutes on how he would get us out of Iraq?

What An Utter Bore

Tonight’s “debate” was an utter bore. I found myself longing for the good old days (approximately a week ago) when Mike Gravel took the stage and showed us what crazy can do to enliven a political event. (Stay tuned for Budowsky’s retort to my use of the word “crazy.”)

Look, I know Chris Matthews and the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are obsessed with the Iraq war. But Republican primary voters are kinda, sorta obsessed with taxes and smaller government. Maybe I missed it as I was rushing off to a TV studio this evening, but why wasn’t McCain forced to explain his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts? Republican stalwarts like Rick Santorum have stated publicly their opposition to McCain as the GOP nominee because he’s not a true fiscal conservative. So how ‘bout it, Matthews?

Saturday Night Live Will Have Fun With This

The Republican debate is over and Saturday Night Live can’t wait. Ten candidates, all of whom can be parodied, plus Chris Matthews, is just too much to ask for. They were all the 30-second wonders.

Talk about hyper, serious attention deficit disorder, not exactly grace under pressure, this is one sad start for the Republicans. But OK, you ask, who won, who lost, how much does it all matter, anyway.

But, before I answer that, what a shame that no one gets to actually explain or truly explore an answer or an issue. Lincoln-Douglas this wasn’t. Kennedy-Nixon this wasn’t. Gladiator TV is what this was, rapid fire answers that didn’t answer, superficial when superficial must prevail. After all, ten candidates, half of whom are flakes, doesn’t exactly leave much room for analysis. But let’s look at the candidates. I write this before I see the post-spin. Romney was like a weather vane in a nor’easter hurricane, spinning like crazy. On the social issues like stem cells and abortion, who knows what is going on in his head. On his health care legislation which he has been ducking for weeks, he embraced. Go figure. He reminded me of Eddie Haskel in Leave it to Beaver, slick and ingratiating, but totally phony. Maybe a televangelist from a bygone era.

More Impressive Than The Democrats

The clear winner of Thursday night's debate at Ronald Reagan library was the Republican party. Having been driven from their majorities in Congress, taken losses in state houses and governors mansions across the country, watched poll numbers for Democrats continue to rise while their own president remains as unpopular as none since Richard Nixon during Watergate, many a sane Republican is disappointed in the current field and expects the party to lose the White House in 2008.

But the Republican debate was not only far more interesting than the Democratic version last week, the collective line up was more impressive. The third and fourth tier candidates who hardly register in polls were not sideshows or distractions, but were central players throughout the debate. The atmosphere, even at its most confrontational moments -- and there were several -- was friendly and the ten opponents seemed a team. No one was mean, no one was stumped or panicked in response to many surprising and tough questions, and as a line up they came across as far more experienced than the collection of Democratic contenders in their debate. The four former governors -- James Gilmore of Virginia, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin -- all shined but Reps. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), Ron Paul (Texas), and Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kansas) also spoke knowledgeably about numerous issues from terrorism to the Iraq war to immigration to taxes.

Both Debates Were A Waste, Nobody Talked Seriously About Iraq

Within the boring and irrelevant format of too many candidates dishing too much spin for their party nominations, with the armada of full employment campaign analysts sounding gravely important trying to find a winner like counting the angels on the head of a pin, all the candidates did fine tonight.
None of the Democrats were JFK; none of the Republicans were Reagan; none of this was a surprise; and none of it mattered either to the quality of our national discussion, the standings of the candidates, or the verdict of history, will which remember none of this.

Our country has a really big problem, and it is Iraq. In neither debate did any of the candidates saying anything important, or memorable, or relevant to the outcome.


On the playing field, John McCain did the best in the Republican debate. He was passionate, articulate, and forceful and the populism that animated his race in 2000, heretofore absent, was shining brightly as he denounced pork and special interests. He did himself the most good.

But the bias of MSNBC and, the debate's sponsors, was evident. Democratic organs, both, they did their utmost to be sure the Rudy Giuliani was marginalized during the debate. As the only Republican who can win in November, he has been the object of Democratic attacks for a month or more now and MSNBC kept the mike well away from him as much as possible. Off in a corner of the room, seemingly by himself, at dramatic moments in the debate, the attention went to McCain, Romney, anybody -- even Brownback -- but not to Giuliani.

For his part, Rudy began strong with good answers out of the box but then degenerated into a candidate for re-election as mayor instead of a candidate for president. He was good when the topic was terrorism but weak on everything else. He needs to get his act down better before the next showdown.