Fred Thompson just ripped into Mike Huckabee’s record, and got vigorous applause for it. Did someone wonder where Fred’s fire in the belly is? Because I think he just found it.
Someone has to say it. Mike Huckabee is not a conservative in terms of his view of government. He would be another George W. Bush, but without the resolution on the war. He’s a nice guy to have a beer with, and he’d be a nice pastor. But he’s not POTUS material, and Thompson just forcefully made the case why.
Now Thompson needs to make the case why he’s the best conservative in the race, and if he does that as forcefully as he went after Huckabee he’ll walk away with this debate.
I wasn’t planning on liveblogging tonight, but…
8:39PM: Both Huckabee and Thompson had good lines on Iran. Huck’s line about the “gates of hell” and Thompson’s ad-lib about the Iranians meeting those virgins they’re always pining for was pure red meat for national security conservatives. The difference is that Thompson had more policy detail—which shows that he’s done his homework, but does tend to bog him down a bit.
8:40PM: McCain looks really tired…
8:41PM: Ron Paul brings up the Gulf of Tonkin. Again, he’s the punching bag tonight. Does he not remember the USS Cole?
Thompson’s Iran line: “I think one more step and they would have been meeting those virgins they’ve been looking so forward to seeing.” Classic.
8:43PM: Ron Paul is a whiny little crapweasel. John McCain looks like he’s about ready top jump out of his podium and rip him a new one.
Romney is polished as ever, but it hasn’t helped him yet. Romney is the perfect executive, which just isn’t the same as the perfect Presidential candidate.
8:46PM: McCain has a good line about Iraq, but he still looks so tired. I’d be inclined to support McCain, mainly because he’s been on top of this war, but he’s not inspiring tonight. His stump speech lines are getting old, especially on spending—and I think McCain is 100% dead-on right on the need to control spending.
8:48PM: Giuliani’s answer on Iraq was fine, but he’s also not hitting it tonight. The only two people who are “on” tonight are Fred and Huck, which may mean a lot for the shape of the crucial South Carolina race.
8:51PM: McCain is smacking down Paul, who sounds more and more paranoid and conspiratorial. We supported Osama bin Laden? Bullshit. Why did they bother bringing that raving nutbag into the debate? Unless, of course, it’s to give the serious candidates a convenient punching bag.
8:53PM: Fred just slammed The New York Times on Iraq. Where the hell have you been, Senator? Had you done this well earlier, you’d be leading by 10% right now.
“You can tell the news coming out of Iraq is good, because you read so little about it in the New York Times.” Nice!
What’s nice about Fred tonight is that he has a good applause line followed by some real substantive answers. He’s got energy tonight, and it shows.
Romney mentioned “three dimensional chess.” Is he going for the Trekkie vote? Then again, he had a very sharp answer on Pakistan, mentioning the head of the Pakistani Army.
8:58PM: Now “Mr. Nice Guy” Huckabee is kicking Ron Paul in the ass. He is the punching bag tonight. Small government or not, I’d vote for a dead cow before I’d vote for a nutbag like Ron Paul at this point.
9:00PM: Rudy speaks out on behalf of Israel, followed by Thompson. Thompson goes on the offensive against Huckabee on Pakistan, over the issue of military funding. He needs to go after Huck, and that’s what he’s doing. No good lines for that one, though. He probably should have let it go.
9:03PM: Some quick thoughts: this is Fred’s night. McCain looks tired, Mitt’s moribund, Rudy’s not hitting it, and Ron Paul is a nut. Even Huckabee is just treading water. Fred is going hard after Huckabee on the issues, and it’s putting him on the defensive. Huckabee is not good on the defensive. We’ll see if Fred can keep the pressure on—if so, it will be interesting to see what effect it has at the polls.
9:05PM: Mitt gets a good line: do people want Washington insiders because of Clinton’s NH win? “Nope.” Romney’s positioning himself as the candidate of “change” is his best bet, but the problem is that McCain’s been doing it longer. I think people are getting sick of the word “change” by now—I know I am. Romney’s is talking about his resume, which is impressive, but he’s giving yet another solid second-place performance. That’s not enough for him.
9:07PM: McCain gets a question about being a Washington candidate. He gets a decent line in, then goes back to his stump speech: Iraq, the Boeing deal, etc. However, he does have a great line about the Abrahamoff corruption case. Corruption was a huge issue in 2006, and McCain is doing a good job of positioning himself on it.
9:09PM: Now Huckabee gets attacked for a big-government record. He’s definitely taking flack tonight. He’s not helping himself by talking about raising “hope.” Government doesn’t raise hope, people do. I’m half expecting Fred to take him on over this.
9:10PM: And they give the response to Fred… quelle surprise. Thompson brings up his own record, which is smart. He’s slammed Huck, now it’s time to draw the contests. Fred’s energy is a bit down with this answer, but he’s still solid. He came in tonight with a strategy to contrast himself with Huck on conservative issues, and he’s doing just that. Now, will it work?
9:13PM: Huck gets a response. Oh, and Huck’s slam at Minnesota about bridges was gratuitous. He’d never carry Minnesota, and you’d damn well better think that Minnesota Republicans are not going to like that. This one certainly didn’t.
Rudy’s up. I’ve seen Rudy speak, and he can command a room. Right now, he’s flailing. This questions should be a softball for him, but he’s just not inspiring.
9:16PM: Huck is getting slammed about his line about women “submitting to the servant leadership of her husband.” His answer to this is sold. He brings up his wife, which is nice. The question is very unfair, and shows a lack of what being a “servant leader” is to a Christian. This was designed to be a slam, but Huckabee is walking away with it. You don’t go after Huckabee on a theological issue, because that’s the one thing he’s the most qualified to speak on.
I don’t want Huckabee in the Oval Office, but he’d make a damned fine replacement for Dr. Phil.
9:20PM: Why do they let Ron Paul rant again? God, he’s annoying.
9:22PM: Even The New York Times is giving Fred solid marks tonight.
9:24PM: McCain gets a sharp question on immigration, which is apparently a popular issue. This is McCain’s real Achilles heel, although I don’t think there’s that much daylight between any of the candidates. McCain’s plan is similar to Thompson’s which is similar to Romney’s. But they all still want to try to get traction on this issue.
9:27PM: So is Romney saying we should deport all 12 million illegals? That’s what he seems to say? Exactly how can he pull that off? Attrition is possible, mass deportation would be difficult at best.
9:28PM: Thompson “we need to be a country of high fences and wide gates.” I really like that line. But his answer goes too long.
9:30PM: Ron Paul is almost making sense on immigration. I recall something about stopped clocks… but then he goes to Iraq again. Ugh.
9:32PM: I know immigration is a critical issue, but all this hair-splitting just doesn’t seem to mean much. Huckabee’s answer was as long-winded as Fred’s and less substantive. Rudy’s also flailing here on whether NYC was a “sanctuary city.”
9:35PM: Fred won. I know I’m not unbiased here, but a quick read through of the blog reactions. He just won over the Frank Luntz focus group too.
This is the Fred Thompson that I support.