Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Republican Debate

"Political experts say that the ten Republican candidates represented all races, creeds, and colors of rich white men." Conan O'Brien

The Republicans held their first presidential debate Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. I was curious to know how it went and who conservatives thought had won, so I toured a few right-wing blogs and some other sites. The Democrats are feeling pretty cocky right now and think they might be able to take the White House in 2008, but given their history of running pathetic presidential campaigns (see Gore 2000, Kerry 2004, Dukakis 1988, etc.), voters may want to familiarize themselves with the Republican candidates in case Ron Paul winds up as our next president.

Unlike the Democrats' first debate in South Carolina last week, where no one really stood out or completely blew it, the Republican debate seems to have had some clear winners and losers. It will be interesting to see polling numbers for Republicans in the next couple of weeks. A few surprises may be in store.

The consensus winner of the night was Mitt Romney. He pretty much made a clean sweep of all the blog polls and analytical pieces I read. As one National Review pundit said, he "looked and sounded like a serious presidential candidate." Many others agreed.

The consesus loser on Thursday was "America's Mayor," Rudy Giuliani. If you believe the pundits, his campaign is about to tank over this debate debacle.

Red State: "Rudy Giuliani imploded. . . . Rudy totally and utterly self-destructed tonight. He had many chances to get in good with the core base of Republican voters and ignored every moment."

National Review pundit 1: "[Rudy] lost the debate, beginning with the first question when he seemed nervous and disorganized. At no time did he manage to convey the strength and confidence of America’s mayor."

National Review pundit 2: "Rudy seemed so half-heartedso unwilling to make an effort, to demonstrate that he actually wants to become presidentthat I found myself wondering if he’s having second thoughts about running. I can’t tell you who won, but Rudy for darned sure lost."

New York Post: [Rudy] may not be the front-runner much longer. . . . [H]is debate performance was lousy. . . . Rudy did himself harm last night."
When the New York Post rips its favorite mayor, you know things were bad.

Though perhaps not all is lost for Rudy. A Survey USA poll of 317 debate watchers in California thought he did best, giving him 30% of their vote, more than twice as much as the next candidate, Romney, at 12%. The poll doesn't say, however, whether these debate watchers were Republican voters or not, or if they were even registered voters, or if they were even awake during the debate. But it wouldn't be unlikely to see him score well among a poll of the general public.

Ron Paul. Your next President of the United States.

The big surpise of the night: Ron Paul, Libertarian Congressman from the Galveston, Texas district. Paul came in second in all of the blog polls and even forced the pundits to acknowledge his existence, though most did so grudingly. He was supposed to be the crazy old fringe guy, kind of like Mike Gravel is for the Democrats, except that viewers actually responded well to Dr. Paul, who is an M.D. and - according to Wikipedia - has delivered over 4,000 babies. The Wall Street Journal said, "Paul distinguished himself both by presenting a strong antiwar, anti-interventionist platform and by appearing nervous at times." [He distinguished himself by "appearing nervous"?] Now what do the pundits do? Dr. Paul also did very well in the "YouTube Primary," with 11,000 views of his debate performance, 2nd only to Romney's 16,000 views.

Another winner: Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas. While Ron Paul will [sadly?] never be taken seriously as a candidate, Huckabee might have a chance to start swimming with the big boys if Rudy and McCain start to tumble. Yet another National Review pundit (they had a whole damn panel of them), said of Huckabee: "Smart, pleasant, knowledgeable, and straightforward." Mark Halperin at Time gave him a B+, behind only Romney. If nothing else, Huckabee might be getting a look as a possible VP. Rudy, for example, could use some real help in the south and among the social conservatives. Huckabee is a Baptist minister from Arkansas.

Another loser: John McCain. I thought it was interesting that McCain got okay reviews from the pundits, whereas most conservative blog polls had him 4th or 5th, with about 5% of the vote, and comments on some of the blogs were downright vicious towards him. He really is something of a media darling, it seems. If you're a supposed front-runner, and your potential base doesn't seem to like you and thinks you looked like a doddering old fool in the debate, I don't see how that plays out as an "okay" performance.

So, what are the Republicans going to do? Their main front-runner "implodes" in the debate. The second one gets a lukewarm-to-vicious response. The Mormon flip-flopper from the East Coast does really well. The Libertarian from Texas (via Pittsburgh - another Yankee carpetbagger!) scores big. The Baptist minister - Huckabee - might cause some waves. But I don't get the sense that the Repubicans actually have much of a candidate they can support right now. Which is why so many conservatives want Fred Thompson to run, I guess.

Here are some of the numbers and comments I collected:

Drudge - 85,000 votes
Romney 30%
Rudy 20%
Ron Paul 18%
McCain 6%

Little Green Footballs - 4,440 votes
Romney 34.6%
Rudy 23%
Ron Paul 20.7%
Tancredo 6.1%
McCain 5.2%

Hot Air (Michelle Malkin) - 2,000 votes
Romney 54%
Rudy 16%
Ron Paul 10%
Hunter 6%
McCain / Tancredo 4%

Red State -1,300 votes
Who LOST the debate?
Rudy 38%
McCain 17%
Romney 10%

"John McCain won. . . . Mitt Romney shined, he stood out, he did well. Rudy Giuliani imploded. Rudy totally and utterly self-destructed tonight. He had many chances to get in good with the core base of Republican voters and ignored every moment."

National Review Panel
1) Winners: Romney, McCain, and Huckabee
"It was hard to see why Giuliani is a frontrunner. . . . [He] was tired and off balance."

2) Mitt Romney had the best night. Calm, warm, thoughtful, and engaging, he looked and sounded like a serious presidential candidate. John McCain and Giuliani didn’t do themselves any favors.

3)And the winner is: Mitt the Good, the Perfect, the Gosh-Darned Smartest of Them All. He was substantive, concise, and humorous, if somewhat over-educated.
Runner-up goes to Mike Huckabee. Smart, pleasant, knowledgeable, and straightforward, he was the surprise in the Cracker Jack box.
[Rudy] lost the debate, beginning with the first question when he seemed nervous and disorganized. At no time did he manage to convey the strength and confidence of America’s mayor.

4)Among the big three, Giuliani turned in the most problematic performance.

5)Huckabee and Romney did well.

"Rudy seemed so half-heartedso unwilling to make an effort, to demonstrate that he actually wants to become presidentthat I found myself wondering if he’s having second thoughts about running. I can’t tell you who won, but Rudy for darned sure lost."

Peggy Noonan
Mitt Romney won
Rudy Giuliani lost
John McCain is still in
And there's "the obscure but intellectually serious Ron Paul."

NY POST (Podhoretz)
Rudy "may not be the front-runner much longer. . . . [H]is debate performance was lousy. . . . Rudy did himself harm last night.

Huckabee "did himself the most good" and was "quietly sensational."

Other Views

MSNBC - 48-51,000 votes
Who stood out from the pack?
Ron Paul 31%
Romney 25%
Rudy 19%
McCain 9%
Huckabee 4%

Who showed the most leadership qualities?
Same order as above

Who was the most convincing candidate?
Same order as above

Who had the most rehearsed answers?
McCain 31%
Romney 25%
Rudy 21%
Ron Paul 5.4%
Brownback 4.6%

Who avoided the questions?
Rudy 34%
McCain 18%
Romney 14%
Brownback 6.4%
T. Thompson 6.3%

Who had the best one-liner?
Ron Paul 26%
Romney 17%
McCain 16%
Rudy 15%
Huckabee 8%

Survey USA Poll - 317 debate watchers in California
Rudy 30%
Not sure 16%
Romney 12%
McCain 11%
Gilmore 8%

Time Magazine (Mark Halperin)
Romney A-
Huckabee B+
Rudy B
Ron Paul B
McCain B-

Daily Kos - 9,200 voters
Zombie Reagan 40%
Ron Paul 24%
Romney 11%
Huckabee 4% (440)
Rudy 4% (377)
McCain 3%


Jeff said...

Interesting. I didn't see the Democratic debate or the Republican debate, so I wasn't aware that Rudy had done so poorly.

I told you Mitt was smooth enough to gloss over some of his obvious problems.

Interesting to hear about Huckabee. I wonder why Dobson and the rest of the evangelical power-brokers who are wringing their hands so intensely over the lack of a viable candidate aren't keen on lining up behind him?

I'm not entirely surprised to hear about Ron Paul. Libertarianism is very much in vogue these days. At least it looks that way to me.

Heard an interesting piece on NPR this morning about Fred Thompson. Lord, spare us. When in a state of Republican desperation, turn to another Hollywood actor, even though you've spent the last decade excorciating Hollywood actors.

What does your Democratic debate scorecard look like?

Liam said...

Thanks for the information, Batman. Damn, you have a strong stomach.

It's interesting that Brownback hasn't distinguished himself as well -- I thought he would be the natural right-wing choice.

I don't know what to think about Romney. He's sort of like Hillary -- since he doesn't believe in anything except power, it's hard to know what he'd do with it once he got it. Maybe Jeff, who has lived under his reign, can give us a few ideas.

Go Jazz.

cowboyangel said...

Romney seemed to do the best, but there were also comments here and there about him seeming too rehearsed, too polished, and trying to pull one over on abortion. So, he came off well, but I think his success puts conservatives in a bit of a quandary. He is a Mormon flip-flopper from the East Coast who supported abortion. But he "looks and sounds" presidential. I could see him taking away some votes from Rudy after this, but it's hard to imagine the hardcore social conservatives are going to be moved by him.

Why aren't Dobson and other evangelicals supporting Huckabee? Good question. Mostly, I imagine, because they don't think he's a real contender. But if he can sway folks like Halperin with his "intelligence" and "pleasant demeanor," he might have a chance. My guess is that he and Romney will see a slight increase in the next polls, as Richardson and Biden did after the Democratic debate. But I doubt it will be huge for Huckabee. It's something to build on, to create a buzz about - and if he can keep it up, my guess is that more big name evangelicals will start to move over towards him. But I think they want a winner more than they want a fellow evangelical.

I did a little reading after the Democratic debate, which I didn't watch. The reports weren't very surprising. Hillary supporters thought she did well. Daily Kos people thought she did terribly. Richardson impressed some, but he also made some statements that lost him support among the progressives. Obama seemed to do pretty well in general, though he made a couple of minor miscues and some thought he seemed nervous. Edwards seemed good, though a little mellow. I don't think the debate changed anything. The top 3 candidates stay in the same order. A couple of "second tier" candidates - Richardson and Biden, as I mentioned - saw a little improvement in their polling numbers afterwards, but not much. You didn't read anything about Hillary "imploding" or Mike Gravel coming in 2nd place like you did with the Republican debate.

cowboyangel said...


Yeah, you wonder why Brownback doesn't generate more interest among the conservatives. But he hardly rated a blip in the post-debate coverage. And I don't remember any comments on the blogs either.

He may be like Joe Biden or Chris Dodd for the Democrats - people who have something of a national reputation, but for whatever reasons don't rate as presidential candidates even within their own party.

cowboyangel said...

After Jeff's question on how the Democrats did, I went back to MSNBC to review their poll after the South Carolina debate.

Who was the most convincing candidate?

Barack Obama 35%
Hillary Clinton 22%
John Edwards 14%
Bill Richardson 9%
Joe Biden 7.2%
Dennis Kucinich 5.7%
Mike Gravel 4.6%
Chris Dodd 2.1%

I notice that 127,000 people voted in the MSNBC poll about the Democratic debate, compared to only 58,000 who've voted on the Republican one. That's more than twice the number. While the Democratic debate was over a week ago, it's hard to imagine those numbers getting much closer.

And just as an update on the MSNBC poll: with 8,000 more votes counted, Ron Paul is starting to run away with the victory.

Paul 37%
Romney 23%
Rudy 17%
McCain 8%
Huckabee 3.7%

Jeff said...


Romney isn't fom the East Coast. He's from Michigan, and in my opinion, the fact that he wasn't from here helped to prevent him from being very effective as a governor. Like several of his immediate Republican predecessors he seemed to lose interest in the job when he found he couldn't force everything to work his way like he could in the corporate world. As I stated on my blog, I was also unimpressed by his whole cravenly opportunist approach to politics as revealed to me by his political strategist, who was a childhood schoolmate of mine.

cowboyangel said...


I didn't know Mitt from from Mich. Thanks. I was kind of kidding around with the way he's perceived - not sure how many others won't think of his as an East coast Liberal who flip-flopped into a conservative.

Seems like it would be better right now to be a conservative who turned into a Democrat, a la Jim Webb, than vice versa.

Interesting that you talked to Romney's political strategist. I'm sure that was fascinating, if not disturbing.

pbwiener said...

Now this is the kind of column that would fare very well in a regularly published library journal, print prefereably, but online too (I did that for about 4 years long ago - for Catholic Library World!). So much good writing is wasted online, in my not too humble opinion, where it's lost or drowned. This is lively, full of real information, research, facts, data, clearly presented, intelligent, current, non-library-obsessed. non-commital (apolitical?). Maybe you don't want to become a librarian-columnist. Who could blame you!

I watched the debate, but have no favorites. Mitt seems the cleanest-looking - sure to win him many votes (as Giuliani looks dirty). Yuchh to cleanliness. Watch out for Fred Thompson - he probably won the debate.