Axis of Right

Three Native Rhode Islanders Commenting From the Right on Politics and Anything Else

Archive for January 6th, 2008

Mitt Romney Wins Final New Hampshire Debate

Posted by Mike on January 6, 2008

When offering my thoughts on primary debates, I usually characterize one or two candidates as winners, one or two candidates or losers, identify those who were more so-so, and reminisce about my favorite moments. Tonight, I will actually rank the candidates’ performances because I think it was that clear-cut. For the sake of full disclosure, I am a Fred Thompson supporter.

1. Mitt Romney

Romney was the clear winner tonight and I say this as a Thompson supporter who thought the Governor bombed last night. First, Romney displayed his usual charisma which will be important if the Democrats go with Barack Obama. empty suit. Right out of the box, Romney bested both John McCain and Mike Huckabee on tax arguments. He bested McCain by pointing out his opposition to the Bush tax cuts and bested Mike Huckabee when he pointed out that net taxes increased while he was Governor of Arkansas.  He then capped off the tax issue by tackling class warfare head-on, arguing that attacking the wage payer does not lead to prosperity.  Mitt was a little weak on fees, but McCain and Huckabee’s tax answers were worse.

On the change theme, which frankly nauseates me, Romney argued that his executive experience and outsider perspective makes him the most qualified candidate to change Washington. It is a substantively strong argument and just as important, will be persuasive in a general election. He the charisma and foremost, the man almost always projects charisma on television.

Romney did well tonight because he stopped whining about personal attacks. Tonight, he blew off criticisms and even managed to bait Huckabee into making the same mistake he did last night.

I believe that Romney is in deep trouble if he loses New Hampshire. This debate alone will not carry him across the finish line, but it should help him. The question is, will it be enough?

2. Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani comes in second not so much because of what he said, but because of his opponents’ mistakes. Giuliani came across well when he spoke, which thanks to Chris Wallace was not nearly enough. The Mayor reminded voters of his tax-cutting ways as Mayor of New York City. What also impressed me was the simple way he handled the question about “change.” The Mayor made the obvious point that some change is good and some change is bad. A candidate like Barack Obama would have trouble handling Rudy on this point once it is tied to specific ideas. Good night for Rudy, for whom New Hampshire is irrelevant.

3. John McCain

I was tempted to give McCain second because I think he did OK in terms of New Hampshire. There will be enough independent voters in New Hampshire to neutralize the immigration issue on Tuesday, but McCain’s long-term chances decreases every time he tries to convince people that he and Ted Kennedy do not support amnesty. McCain will be in trouble once that argument hits South Carolina if New Hampshire punches his ticket to the south.

McCain was better on Iraq. His support for the war coupled with his criticisms of Bush’s strategy give him credibility with the right and with the center, thereby increasing his chances in the general election against either She Who Must Not Be Named or the Empty Suit.

4. Fred Thompson

This was an off night, no doubt about it. He rambled and was too low key for this type of thing. He scored a few points though. He zinged Romney by bringing up the fact that Ted Kennedy was at his health care bill’s signing ceremony. He took Huckabee to school on the legal consequences of closing Club Gitmo. Thompson’s best moment was his closing argument by falling back on the principles that could make a winning campaign. He is setting himself up for a strong South Carolina showing where he can wipe the floor with all on immigration if Romney is weakened by that time. Tonight wasn’t great, but New Hampshire is irrelevant for Fred.

5. Mike Huckabee

Tonight was hit and miss for Huck. He underscored the fact that he is best suited to tie his proposals to the concerns of everyday people. The media, Democrats, and even many Republicans are foolish to underestimate him.

There were many missteps for Huck however. He made the same mistake Romney made last night when he complained that Chris Wallace was the moderator when Mitt Romney questioned him on the issue of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. Amnesty opponents wonder why the children of illegal immigrants aren’t punished with out-of-state tuition because of their parents’ decisions when children of American parents from other states are. Fortunately, for Huckabee, New Hampshire isn’t that important for Huckabee. His immigration past will hurt him.

6. Chris Wallace

I initially thought Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were ignored too frequently. I am now certain this was the case because Wallace just admitted it on Fox. Also, his questions were too long. People should hear from the candidates, not the moderator.

Final Thoughts

Tuesday’s primary is crucial to Romney and McCain. The former will be greatly weakened if he does not win. The latter will be finished if he does not win. Romney was the winner tonight. The issue now is whether it was enough to help him finish off McCain.

Mary Katharine Ham has some interesting thoughts on tonight’s debate.

Posted in Election 2008, Politics | 2 Comments »

Two Debates on ABC

Posted by Mike on January 6, 2008

ABC hosted two Presidential debates last night in New Hampshire, one for each party. Since I was never going to watch all three hours, the following is my take on how it went for the Republicans.

Each candidate was playing to a different audience. Although the debate was held in New Hampshire, Fred Thompson was more concerned with how his performance would play in South Carolina, Rudy Giuliani was more concerned with how his performance would play in Florida, and Ron Paul was more concerned with how his performance would play in South Park’s Imagination Land. All candidates, whether focused on New Hampshire and elsewhere, had an interest in undermining Mitt Romney and it showed.

Despite conventional internet wisdom to the contrary, I thought Romney lost last night’s debate. There were no major stumbles on his part, but he was forced to play the role of human pin cushion. Early on, he faced off with Mike Huckabee over the latter’s condemnation of President Bush’s foreign policy as arrogant. I thought Romney won this exchange but it was downhill from there. At one point Romney engaged McCain in an amnesty debate. Both candidates came off the worse for this exchange. In Romney’s case, he was criticized for having changed positions on the issue. This would be a common theme.

Fred Thompson challenged Romney for having said that separation from President Bush’s immigration policy would be a mistake for the GOP. Romney claims to have been misquoted. John McCain then proclaimed: “when you change your positions all the time, you’re bound to get misquoted.” Earlier in the evening, Romney asked Mike Huckabee not to attack his positions, and Huckabee asked, “which one?” When Romney attempted to seize Barack Obama’s language regarding change, McCain jokingly agreed with Romney when he said “you are the candidate of change.”

Romney’s response to these attacks was weak, and even seemed whiny when he asked that the others refrain from personal attacks. It was reminiscent a debate in which She Who Must Not Be Named accused her rivals of playing gotcha. Fighting back without whining would have been more effective. It is often said that the candidate who levels criticisms in a debate risks a backlash. Given the effectiveness of negative attacks, I don’t buy this assertion but even assuming it to be sure, I don’t think Romney will benefit because it wasn’t one person criticizing him, it was the whole lot, and then he whined about it.

On a positive note, Romney was one of only two candidates to stand up for conservatism on economic, social and foreign policy issues. This is one of his strengths in this race. For this reason, other than when he admitted that he “likes mandates,” he was effective when discussing issues. In addition, most people in New Hampshire were probably watching football. However, Romney didn’t handle the attacks too well. His performance leads me to the conclusion that everyone else won.

John McCain had no major missteps in terms of wooing New Hampshire and so I declare him the short-term winner. Unfortunately for him, he delivered the lie of the debate when he declared that “I’ve never supported amnesty.” I don’t think that will hurt him in New Hampshire where so many indies will invade our primary, but that lie won’t help him down the road in the other primaries.

Mike Huckabee was another winner. I thought he stumbled early on with his awkward backpedalling on his accusation that Bush’s foreign policy has been arrogant. He delivered a funny one-liner against Romney though when he asked about Romney’s multiple positions. It wasn’t Huckabee’s best performance, but since he doesn’t need New Hampshire, this didn’t matter.

Giuliani did quite well. On points, he probably won the national security portion of the debate. His is answers on national security issues showed a deep understanding of the problems we face. He especially shined when he gave Ron Paul a history lesson on the history of Islamic terrorism.

Fred Thompson was the adult in the room and reminded me why I support him. Although he was authoritative, he was a little dry. He was playing to South Carolina though. Staying out of the McCain-Romney catfight on immigration, Thompson challenged Rudy Giuliani over the amnesty issue when he boiled the issue down to first principles. Thompson explained that amnesty is when one is “rewarded for your illegal behavior in any way.” This will play well in later states, especially if Romney is weakened and the opponents are McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani. Like Romney, Thompson also defended the three prongs of conservatism, though he cited the Constitution when doing so.

Ron Paul may be physically on our planet, but he’s really just a tourist. I did appreciate his answer on ID cards though.

Charlie Gibson was the moderator and with the exception of taxes and health care, wasn’t too bad. At the end of the debate, he invited all candidates from both parties to share the stage. Corny.

I thought Romney lost this one, but it won’t matter. Many people were watching football and there’s another debate tonight on Fox News. More people will remember that one. As was the case yesterday, everyone in this race will try to weaken Romney because it is in their interests to do so. McCain needs to beat him in New Hampshire. The others want him weakened for some other state. If Romney can fight back rather than whine tonight, he’ll be OK.

Screencap of ABC News debate via Hot Air

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Romney Wins Wyoming Caucus

Posted by Ryan on January 6, 2008

Of course, as a Romney fan, I need some good news after this past week’s events. Mitt Romney was able to take eight of the delegates up for grabs yesterday in Wyoming’s first phase of the primary season. Thompson received three delegates and Hunter won a single delegate. Other still delegates are still available, but Wyoming has a complicated schedule and was even punished by the National Republicans for moving their caucus too early.

Based on the three winners, Wyoming is still a sane, conservative state who voted for the only true conservative candidates in the race. I don’t think the New Hampshire primary will go with the conservatives, but with their sentimental favorites in order: McCain, Romney and Huckabee.

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