1st Republican Debate of 2008 – Video, Transcripts, Reax

I caught perhaps half an hour of last night’s so-called debate between Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and eight other guys. I don’t feel deprived at not having seen the rest. The format was awful and the not unreasonable decision to include people whose candidacy has no shot (Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul, at a minimum) made the time to valuable information ratio even lower than usual for these things. The Politico‘s Mike Murphy writes that, “Despite the 100 laptops urgently typing away here in the press room, it’s hard to say much really happened tonight at the first Republican presidential primary debate.” And his fledgling paper was a co-sponsor!

My wife, who has lived in Virginia the last twelve-plus years, was surprised that Jim Gilmore, the state’s former governor, was running. Despite the fact that we’re both longtime political junkies who vote Republican, neither of us recognized Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, or Ron Paul on sight. That’s probably not good news for those guys.

According to the experts, either McCain, Giuliani, or Mitt Romney won; the most interesting person was Fred Thompson, who wasn’t there; and none of the also-rans did anything to change their status.

Erick Erickson: “John McCain won. Let’s not dance around this. 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.”

Peggy Noonan: “It was an incomplete field that made its debut, but not an unimpressive one. For the first time, as I watched, I thought: Fred Thompson shouldn’t take forever to get in. History moves.”

Ed Morrissey: “Mitt Romney won this debate. He looked relaxed, answered clearly, showed real warmth and a sense of humor, and actually answered the questions asked of him — even the stupid ones.” As to the Thompson Boys, “Fred helped himself tremendously by staying out of this debate” while Tommy “mumbled, stumbled, and vacillated his way through this debate.”

John Hawkins: “Winners: 1) Mike Huckabee 1) Mitt Romney — Both were very charismatic.”

Paul Mirengoff: “John McCain had the best night. He seemed a bit nervous at first, but soon found his stride. He managed more ably than his chief rivals, McCain and Romney, to give answers that will appeal to a reasonably full spectrum of Republican voters without seeming to pander to anyone.”

Kim Priestap: “On the whole, I was impressed with Mitt Romney. ”

Roger Simon: “I think Mitt Romney won. And I think John McCain came in second and Rudy Giuliani came in third.”

Marc Ambinder: “Rudy Giuliani’s answers on Iraq, terrorism and national security were spot on and crisp. His body language showed confidence. For nearly every question about domestic policy, he was able to pivot to his experiences in New York City.” And: “Mitt Romney is great with first impressions, and it’s hard to say whether the spit-polish of his answers dripped off the stage… or whether Romney appeared natural and comfortable. He certainly seemed presidential.” And: “At least five guys on that stage were presidential. If [Fred Thompson] gets in too late, will Republicans be comfortable enough with the field by then?”

Rich Lowry: “This might be … the night when Rudy stopped being solely the hero of 9/11 and started being a presidential candidate like everyone else. It was inevitable at some point.”

Mike Murphy: “None of the dark horse candidates broke through, although several performed credibly and probably increased interest in their campaigns.”

Pollster.com reports that 13% surveyed in California immediately afterwards said they watched the debate and that, “Of those who both watched and are likely to vote in the California Republican primary, 30% thought former Mayor Rudy Giuliani won, 17% thought Sen. John McCain won, and 13% though former Gov. Mitt Romney won.”

Emails from the McCain (5 6 of them so far!) and Romney (just 1) camps assured me that their candidates won. No word yet from the other eight participants.

Live blogs: Michelle Malkin, John Hawkins, Jim Addison, N.Z. Bear (there in person), Stephen Green (drunk)

Other roundups: Matt Sheffield, Glenn Reynolds

Hotline has full transcripts: Part 1, Part 2.

Videos of moments that people are talking about:

Giuliani defends public funding for abortion in New York:

Jim VandeHei asks Mitt Romney, “What do you dislike most about America?” (courtesy Brent Baker)

Do you believe in evolution?

(Crooks and Liars has a longer version and notes that “Brownback, Tancredo and Huckabee” raised their hands who the group was asked, “Who does NOT believe in evolution?”)

A highlight reel

To McCain: “if you would be comfortable with tom tancredo, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration as head of the immigration naturalization service?” To Romney: “What Do You Dislike Most About America?” To Romney: “Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for America?” To Romney: “What do you say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to elected officials who support abortion rights?” To Rep. Paul: “Do you trust the mainstream media?” To All: “Do you think Scooter Libby should be pardoned?” To All: “Does anyone want to pardon him? I want to see .. does any Gentlemen want to raise his hand and say pardon him?” To all: “Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?” Romney: “You have got to be kidding.”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Politicians, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    FYI, the question Brownback, Tancredo, and Huckabee raised their hands to was “Who does _not_ believe in evolution?”

    Also, I thought it interesting the Rudy kept to his pro-choice position… a guy in my office from NY was discussing this & says (and I agree) that Rudy’s big strength is that, for all his weaknesses & skeletons, he doesn’t hide them. He’s got faults, but he’s usually among the first to address them, rather than letting them fester in someone else’s oppo file.

    And did anyone note Tommy’s gay-firing thing? Can you say “pander”?

  2. James Joyner says:

    FYI, the question Brownback, Tancredo, and Huckabee raised their hands to was “Who does _not_ believe in evolution?”

    Right. Clarification appended.

  3. Michael says:

    Jesus Christ, how can educated people still not believe in evolution?

  4. G.A. Phillips says:

    Michael, you are finally asking the right one, but once again you are asking the wrong question.

  5. James Joyner says:

    how can educated people still not believe in evolution?

    I think it’s a combination of pandering to the base and a rather silly question. I can’t imagine even the most religious person at the level of governor or Congressman doesn’t believe in evolution per se. Many don’t believe that it’s the sole explanation for human existence, though, and “Evolution” is a code word for a belief system rather than just a virtually undisputed biological concept.

  6. Triumph says:

    Jesus Christ, how can educated people still not believe in evolution?

    The fact that this question was deemed appropriate for a debate speaks volumes about how out of touch the Republican party is at this point.

  7. legion says:

    I’m with James on this. Evolution, strictly speaking, covers how life changes over time – it makes no statements about how life came about. There’s no real conflict with any religious tenets unless you are of the loud minority that actually take the Bible as literal, word-for-word truth.

    I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if you honestly believe the entire universe is about 6000 years old, and that Methuselah was alive for almost 1/6th of that time, there’s not many places in a modern society you fit in. Which makes the pandering that much more disturbing…

  8. G.A. Phillips says:

    Triumph, out of touch with what, Evolution is a fools science, nothing more then an irrational belief in a religion base on the works of another fool who used racism to prove his theory, you know I don’t relay care if you wanna worship tadpoles and monkeys it is your choice but saying that some who don’t is out of touch is just, well out of touch.

  9. Bandit says:

    MSNBC received the debate questions from the DNC

  10. Michael says:

    James,
    I’m sure you’re right about 90% of them are probably pandering. What worries me is thinking that even 10% of those who claim not to believe in evolution actually don’t believe in evolution. I want those running my nation to not be as ignorant as G. A. Phillips.

    On a side note, which would make a worse President, someone who actually believes evolution doesn’t happen, or someone who would publicly lie about his/her belief in a concrete fact just for popularity?

  11. Wayne says:

    I thought Giuliani did pretty well. I don’t agree with everything he stands for but I believe him. He seems to be of strong character.

    The evolution question was B.S. It was take all or leave all question. I believe that the current theory of evolution was imply here and not just if evolution exist. I for one believe that the current theory has some things right but many things wrong as well. I couldn’t give a yes or no answer.

    I thought Chris Matthews was a bit of a dick.

  12. David Nick says:

    James-

    I know you only saw a half hour, but you should have stayed up to watch the rebroadcast because I missed the live session, but was able to watch the re-broad…

    Any way, I actually agree that Fred Thompson should have been there, but it was good to see ALL of the ones that did show because it gave them a chance to state a little more about what they were about.

    I have my thoughts about who I believe won that debate, but that’s irrelevant when you consider what WAS said and what WASN’T said/avoided.

    I hope that future debates will involve all the candidates of each party, but like the democrat debate, it was interesting to see what the knew and what they said.

  13. Andy says:

    I for one believe that the current theory has some things right but many things wrong as well. I couldn’t give a yes or no answer.

    Science really doesn’t care what you think.

    However, you are quite correct about…

    I thought Chris Matthews was a bit of a dick.

    Though when is he not?

  14. Tano says:

    “I can’t imagine even the most religious person at the level of governor or Congressman doesn’t believe in evolution per se.”

    Yeah, its hard for any of us to imagine. But reality is often stranger than one’s imagination. I am constantly surprised at the things Republicans believe.

    “Many don’t believe that it’s the sole explanation for human existence, though,”

    That was not the question.

    “…and “Evolution” is a code word for a belief system rather than just a virtually undisputed biological concept. ”

    And that is part of the problem. It is a “code word” perhaps in the fevered swamps of right-wing lala land, but for the rest of us, it is simply a word to describe the process of biological diversification over time.

    I think it was an entirely relevant question, because anyone who is mired in that fevered swamp is clearly not up to leading a superpower in the 21st century.

  15. legion says:

    I think it was an entirely relevant question, because anyone who is mired in that fevered swamp is clearly not up to leading a superpower in the 21st century.

    Sadly, Tano, the prime audience for that debate probably feels largely the opposite…

  16. Wayne says:

    Andy
    “Science really doesn’t care what you think”

    Hate to break this to you but science is not a person or a deity. It is as much of a process, or knowledge gain from that process than it is of anything else. I tend to trust the science process more than other processes but science is often wrong. One nice thing about scientific process is that it is open to correcting itself. Unfortunately many will take a finding that they like and will not be open to any new findings that contradict the original finding.

    Anyone who blindly follow science especially following others conclusion of science are foolish. At least most of the so call religious nuts acknowledge they have blind faith. Many who blindly follow science do not.