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Republican Presidential Debate (Iowa: August 5, 2007)

On C-SPAN last night, I happened to catch the replay of the Republican debate in Iowa, hosted by ABC and moderated by left-wing operative George Stephanopoulos and his local sidekick David Yepson.

Here's my scorecard (and this is not an endorsement of anyone, by any stretch of the imagination):


The panel was physically arranged with the front-runners in the middle, and the fringe candidates on the left and right. In a bizarre move signaling the hyper-horserace-ification of our political process, George Stephanopoulos announced the results of the latest Iowa-specific ABC news poll, as all the candidates not named Romney rolled their eyes and bit their lips:


So, let's go from left to right on the stage.

Tom Tancredo-

Wants to tell terrorists that we will nuke Mecca and Medina if they pull off a large terrorist attack. Ardent supporter of the FairTax, which is intriguing. Several minutes into the debate, George Stephanopoulos had not recognized him, and he became highly agitated (rightfully so). Tancredo is great on a lot of issues, but he needs to learn to smile and joke and laugh. The angry white dude does not play well, especially paired with his ardent and vocal opinionation on illegal immigration. Tom Tancredo would lose all but a handful of states in a general election.

In this debate, Representative Tancredo gets a D.

Tommy Thompson-

A good and decent man, but he really needs to drop out and throw his efforts behind someone he feels comfortable supporting. He tried so hard to build up a dramatic crescendo on Iraq, only to receive tepid applause. He rambles and blusters and loses track of his own thoughts, and in order to bail himself out he will just blurt out some platitude.

In this debate, Governor Thompson gets a: D-.

Sam Brownback-

He is a good Senator, and although he is known for being a social conservative, he is also fantastic on taxes, trade, spending, entitlements, etc. At this debate, he just did not impress. His plan to partition Iraq might have made sense 3 or 4 years ago, but now it just seems like he is grasping at straws to differentiate himself from the pack.

In this debate, Senator Brownback gets a C-.

John McCain-

A true American hero, but there were times when he seemed to stumble over his words. His age is beginning to really show. At the same time, though, he looked very composed and gave incredibly presidential answers. On the issues, McCain is not particularly exciting, but he could beat any of the Democrats.

In this debate, Senator McCain gets a B+.

Rudy Giuliani-

I've had a slight lean toward Rudy for a while now. I think he is fantastic when he talks about taxes and trade and such. He really knows how to stand up to liberals on those and other economic issues and explain them-- without dumbing it down for the lowest common denominator-- such that everyone can understand what he is talking about. I loved when he called out the strange little Iowan co-moderating with George S. for asking a liberal question. Rudy is great, but Mrs. WILLisms.com thinks he needs to work on his NY lisp thing he has going on. Surprisingly, Rudy sustained very little damage on social issues.

In this debate, Mayor Giuliani gets a B.

Mitt Romney-

Mitt just looks like an actor playing "President Romney." And I mean that in a good way. He is likeable. He is exceedingly well-spoken. He had some awesome one-liners, such as the one about Barack Obama going from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in the course of one week. He sort of lost me a bit when he started talking about "health care" and "education" being prerequisites for democracy in places like Iraq. Had he not fumbled around on that issue, he might have had a near-perfect debate.

In this debate, Governor Romney gets an A-.

Mike Huckabee-

The formerly corpulent former Arkansas Governor apparently scored extremely well with an Iowa focus group watching the debate. It's easy to see why. He had all sorts of folksy ways of explaining things. Occasionally he drifted into populist demagoguery, but he definitely knows how to speak to Middle America. Forensically-speaking, Huckabee is a surprisingly good debater, but I just don't feel like I can trust him to resist those populist impulses.

In this debate, Governor Huckabee gets a B-.

Ron Paul-

Dr. Paul is an embarrassment. I know stating that obvious fact will draw the ire of the internet Paulites, but it's true. Ron Paul might very well be incredible as the domestic president. He might actually succeed in abolishing the IRS, gutting major government expenditures, and otherwise shaking up the status quo. Then again, his approach is so poor, that he might just alienate everyone and fail miserably. In this debate, he looked like the worst caricature of a little senile Texan: H. Ross Perot meets the alter ego of Dennis Kucinich. Ron Paul really should not be on stage with legitimate candidates. He is only included for his anti-war novelty. Worse than that, he is a hypocrite on earmarks.

In this debate, Representative Paul gets an F.

Duncan Hunter-

It is unfortunate that Duncan Hunter is polling so poorly, because he is superb on national security issues. To win in Iraq, it will require more than saying "we're winning," "we will win," and so forth. Rather, we need someone who can speak tactically about how we are winning and how we will win without losing the audience. Duncan Hunter is that guy. He looks and sounds like a leader ought to look and sound. On domestic/economic issues, however, he is pretty poor.

In this debate, Representative Hunter gets a B-.

The missing pieces: Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson.

I am a huge Gingrich fan, but he would probably lose in the general election by a fairly large margin. That being said, Gingrich really ought to be in these debates. He is the best "idea guy" out there today, and he really ought to be on the stage at this stage.

The legend of Fred Thompson is something to behold, but I am not 100% certain that he can live up to that myth. His blogging is really pretty spectacular, but-- ironically-- for an actor, his stump speeches are not particularly great. Yet.

His fundraising has been tepid. As of today, there's a good reason he is not officially in the race. Before anyone declares him the second coming of Reagan, he needs to prove himself a bit more. As a huge Fred fan, count me among the wait-and-see folks.

All of the Republican candidates, including the ones that have yet to declare, seem to have fairly obvious and exploitable weaknesses, but, as Mrs. WILLisms.com remarked, they just need to talk about taxes, all the time. You can hardly go wrong with any of the candidates on that crucial issue. Moreover, when pitted against the socialist nightmares that are Hillary, Obama, Edwards, and Richardson, it will not be difficult whatsoever to get behind whomever the Republican nominee is in 2008.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 August 2007 12:18 PM


I'm in the Huckabee camp. I doubt he'll gain the traction to pull off the nomination unless a "shooting yourself in the foot" epidemic breaks out around him, but i think he could muster a good veep nod.

McCain, on the other hand, is dead to me. Macain /Feingold and the immigration bill iced it.

Posted by: Rob B. at August 6, 2007 01:34 PM

As for Ron Paul being a hypocrite about earmarks, realize that he *proposes* earmarks for his constituents because he sees it as part of his job as a congressman, but then *votes against* those very same earmarks.

Posted by: Paul Eres at August 6, 2007 01:40 PM

Mitt Romney - 24 Hours On The Trail. Watch on YouTube

Posted by: Siegi at August 6, 2007 01:53 PM

Hmmm. And what do earmarks have to do with Paul's performance in the debate? I suspect you dislike Paul (and his positions) intensely enough that you aren't competent to judge his debate performance. Ignoring the online polls which have the usual pro-Paul results, and looking instead at a wide range of individual reactions to the debate, it seems like Paul did all right. Set himself apart, had some good things to say about openness in government, but not great in tone or delivery (too animated and high-pitched, needs to calm down and appear more presidential).

Posted by: bbartlog at August 6, 2007 02:13 PM

Fred Thompson is now hurting himself by not being at events like these.

The usefulness of his non-candidacy candidacy is now at an end I think.

Posted by: Ken McCacken at August 6, 2007 02:35 PM

Most of these conservative bloggers have been telling us for years that the War with Iraq has been / is necessary for the war on terror.

They are too proud to admit that they were wrong.

It's sad, really, because they've tied themselves to a sinking ship and are going to destroy the GOP.

If small government, non interventionalist views no longer have a place in the Republican party, then neither do I.

You Guys can vote 9/11 for president if you want.

But I'll still be voting for Ron Paul.

Posted by: andrew at August 6, 2007 02:51 PM

The RonPaulbots are eerily efficient and seeking out the naysayers.

I like to keep my record of thinking Paul is a truly horrible presidential candidate - becuase of his crackpot views and the campaign company that he keeps - under wraps for fear that a handful of his moron automaton supporters will turn up at my house all Children of the Corn-ish and stuff.


Posted by: Hoodlumman at August 6, 2007 03:41 PM

Its pretty impressive isn't it? Their response time beats that of the local fire department. I wish I had an army of social outcasts constantly Googling my name to nonsensically pummel any of my naysayers.

As for Ron Paul being a hypocrite about earmarks, realize that he *proposes* earmarks for his constituents because he sees it as part of his job as a congressman, but then *votes against* those very same earmarks.
What does that even mean?

Posted by: k2aggie07 at August 6, 2007 04:00 PM


Did you miss the whole immigration debate earlier this year? The one that came back from the dead to attack again?

It was the bill that would have granted instant legal status to all illegals, and given them a way to become citizens.

After the punditry delcared this a done deal, the people rose up and said "no." Americans don't want illegal aliens to get legal status.

Tom Tancredo's anti-illegal alien position is very popular. What's more, his immigration restrictionist position is gaining popularity, too. True, he's not the most telegenic candidate--but neither was Lincoln (not that I'm otherwise comparing the two).

McCain? Are you kidding? The guy is as conservative as a purple Mohawk.

Giuliani? Are you nuts? The man disgraced and humilitated his wife in public, and so estranged his children that his 17-year-old daughter is endorsing Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. His election would destroy what little moral standing the Republican party still has.

Posted by: Nathan Hale at August 6, 2007 10:24 PM

I try not to make a definitive judgement on a candidate on the basis of one action or issue, though I admit it's hard not to with McCain-Feingold. There are always tradeoffs. My libertarian friends remind me that it's not the point to find a great leader, but a good-enough one, and limit his power. I have to say they've got a point.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at August 7, 2007 08:28 AM

In this debate, he looked like the worst caricature of a little senile Texan: H. Ross Perot meets the alter ego of Dennis Kucinich.


Kudos Will.

Posted by: Justin B. at August 7, 2007 03:54 PM

I generally agree with your analysis of the debate.

One thing Conservatives and then Republican must agree upon is that the worst Republican up there in that debate would do us less harm that any of the democrat candidates. Well, maybe, except for Ron Paul.

It is the Conservatives responsibility to construct a Republican party capable of defeating the democrats on their records.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at August 7, 2007 07:01 PM

How unfortunate that any candidate is "written off" in any election. Hold up the same old status quo politician, and try to mute anyone who sees that both parties, and the government as a whole, needs an overhaul. Democracy...is it a joke? Two candidates...we have a larger selection of toilet paper! At least we have a real choice of what to wipe ourselves off with after these lying politicians spew their diarhea filled words all over us.

Posted by: Ardell at August 7, 2007 08:58 PM

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Posted by: Jodicyi at August 8, 2007 10:28 AM

You are so full of it.

Ron Paul far out weighs ANY other candidate on stage
or any where else and should be (will be!) the only one there.

Posted by: Nancy Belle at August 8, 2007 11:36 AM

You are so full of it.

Ron Paul far out weighs ANY other candidate on stage or any where else and should be (will be!) the only one there.

So does the Ron Paul campaign pay folks to go out trolling on political blogs as part of their campaign strategy?

I am assuming that this is a comment that some person CTRL-C then CTRL-V's all day long on any blog that mentions Ron Paul. They have a search engine that checks every blog out there via technorati and xml feeds then they send their trolls out to post similar comments or possibly positive comments on other Ron Paul trolls' blogs.

Ron Paul done smoked himself retarded. He is our Kucinich. He is our Nader. Makes you proud. I figured that we would get some Far Right Evangelical that would make us look like idiots by claiming that God hates Gays and created AIDS to punish them or some such non-sense and we would all be embarrassed that he is invited to the debates. But Paul might possibly be worse, and that is a difficult thing to fathom. (Me being from the Libertarian, not religious side of the Republican Party) You know, Paul may as well be Mike Savage being a legitimate Republican Candidate.

Posted by: Justin B. at August 8, 2007 01:56 PM

Ron Paul,

I am sure he is sincere in his beliefs, and to what I have read about him has never strayed too far from his message.

The public will make the decision about him, and I think the message to him will not be a brutal personal condemnation but simply a rejection of his political ideas.

He is probably a nice guy and I wish him well.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at August 8, 2007 07:26 PM

I am sure he is sincere in his beliefs, and to what I have read about him has never strayed too far from his message.

Neither has Kucinich or Nader. And I at least respect all three for having a core set of values that they stick to.

Does it make them any less out there? Nope. Just opposite sides of the spectrum I guess. Paul is our Chomsky. He is our Soros. Congrats Ron.

Posted by: Justin B. at August 9, 2007 12:33 AM

Win or lose, Ron Paul is the only candidate that represents what I want. You can call him senile and radical. 50 years ago everything he says would have been common sense. I'm giving my vote to the guy that represents what our forefathers had in mind when they drafted the constitution. Say what you want, there is not another candidate that stands for anything but themselves.

Posted by: stever at August 10, 2007 02:23 PM

this "roundup" is ridiculous. We are electing a president, not a gigalo. Who cares if someone "looks presidential" . I look presidential, so does George Bush. We don't need another me or Bush

Posted by: lester at August 10, 2007 08:29 PM