Republican CNN/YouTube Debate Roundup And Reaction

Well, that was a complete and total waste of about two hours of my life.

Tonight, the Republican candidates for President (not including Alan Keyes, who’s campaign has somehow gotten my email address and decided to bombard me with daily updates) gathered in Florida for their version of 2008’s latest fad……..a bunch of inane debate questions asked by people with webcams.

I’m sure that the professionals will have their own opinions of how things went but here’s my reaction, grouped by candidate, influenced by Cabernet Sauvignon, and in no particular order:

Mitt Romney: I’ll hand it to Romney, he certainly looks the part of President. And, for the most part, he seemed to come across as the kind of candidate that would do well in a national election. In the course of a two hour debate, however, we were treated to evidence of three times that Romney has changed his position on an issue of importance to conservative Republicans in the last three years. On abortion, he used to be pro-choice and now he claims to be pro-life…..he attributes this to a “mistake.” On immigration, his policy as Governor of Massachusetts accommodated illegal immigrants, and now he claims to be tough on illegal immigration. And, finally, back in 1994 he said that gay men and women should be permitted to serve in the Armed Forces and, tonight, even when confronted by a retired Brigadier General who happened to be gay, he parroted the same nonsense about gays in the military that we’ve heard from Republicans since 1993.

Rudy Giuliani: For a front-runner, Giuliani seemed surprisingly on the defensive. When Anderson Cooper confronted him with a question about the story that had broken late today about questionable charges by his security team when he was Mayor of New York, he dodged the question quite badly. He was put on the defensive early thanks to three questions in a row on immigration and New York City’s status as a “sanctuary city”; which led to an exchange between Giuliani and Romney about some allegation that Romney employed illegal immigrants…..or maybe that he hired someone who may have employed illegal immigrants. Whatever.

John McCain: McCain struck me tonight as a man who knows that his campaign is pretty much over but is staying in the race to make a point. On at least two points, he said things that struck me as right. On immigration, he refused to join in the immigrant bashing along with Giuliani, Romney, Tancredo, and Hunter and pretty much condemned them for it. Without coming out and saying it, McCain said something that no Republican ever will — there is simply no way that the 12 million people here illegally are going to be deported. That’s not what America is about.

The other issue where McCain took an admirable stand was waterboarding. In response to a direct question, Mitt Romney, refused to say that waterboarding was torture. McCain, who strikes me as the only man on the stage tonight who knows what real torture is, took him to task for it, and rightly so.

Mike Huckabee: I still don’t get what the big deal is about this guy. He isn’t saying anything different from anyone else, and his record in Arkansas makes it fairly clear that his not a fiscal conservative. He didn’t do anything tonight to change my mind.

Ron Paul: In all honesty, I’m pretty sure that tonight may be the night that Ron Paul pretty much guaranteed that whatever chance he had of winning the Republican nomination went out the window.

Let me count the ways.

In one of the few YouTube questions directed specifically to him, he seemed to confirm that he believes the nonsensical stories about some conspiracy, of whatever variety, to create a so-called North American Union. Then, in the second hour, he used a phrase in response to a question about foreign policy that I’m convinced will be used against him when he said that we have to take care of “America first.” It doesn’t take too much creative thought on the part of someone to draw a parallel to the last group of people who used that phrase — and they haven’t exactly been proven right by history. Beyond that, I’ve got to say that I don’t think that he did much better in this debate than he did in the MSNBC debate back in October. And this time, the audience seemed far less receptive.

After tonight, I can honestly say that I think that any chance that Ron Paul will be taken seriously by mainstream Republicans is pretty much gone.

Duncan Hunter: Other than advising one YouTube questioner about gun safety, I can honestly say there isn’t anything memorable about anything Congressman Hunter said.

Fred Thompson: Honestly, I forgot to include him in the original version of this post, and that’s probably a reflection of the impression he made on me. If nothing else, this debate just confirmed for me that he’s not the candidate that political junkies such as myself thought he would be back in May. He still doesn’t seem to be totally into the race, and I don’t think he’ll last past Super Tuesday.

Tom Tancredo: For the first half-hour of this debate Congressman Tancredo was in his glory. Three questions in a row, and arguably the fourth, dealt with pretty much the only issue he’s campaigned on —- immigration. Other than that, he didn’t make that much of an impact, although he did have the best line of the night when he said, in response to one YouTubers question about which candidates would promise to put a man on Mars by 2025 “We can’t afford some things, and going to Mars is one of them.”

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what the night was reduced to is a bunch of one-liners. Then again, I’m not sure why we should have expected anything different.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

Further debate reaction from fellow contributer Kevin Boyd. Meanwhile, Brad Warbiany wonders why Ron Paul’s fund-raising success hasn’t impressed the traders at Intrade. Quite frankly, after tonight’s debate, I think I know why.