So much for being the most important debate so far. For all the hype, speculation, build-up to this debate, in the end, it seemed like a firecracker that wouldn’t light. What was expected to be a big battle between Romney and Giuliani ended up being a short, and relatively unexciting, exchange – one that failed to produce a clear winner. For all of the pre-fight talk, the exchange was not as exciting or combative as those we saw in past debates.
The hype surrounding Fred Thompson’s first debate appearance also ended up being much ado about nothing. Fred Thompson neither produced a stunning performance, nor did he fall flat on his face. By the end of the debate, Fred Thompson was just another man on the stage. While he did not collapse like some expected, he really didn’t produce any memorable line or answer. He stumbled through a question on the weak dollar, and looked somewhat old and tired. It remains to be seen how this debate will effect the polls, but I would not be at all surprised to see him slip in the upcoming tracking polls.
Perhaps its because I’ve watched all of the previous debates, but tonight’s format seemed cluttered and disorganized. If there were time restraints during most of the debate, they were neither mentioned or enforced. Even the “timed” Q&A sessions were a mess – each candidate was supposed to have 30 seconds to answer a question, but many, particularly Huckabee, went well over their time limit – without any attempt by the moderators to move on.
I think this debate ended much like the other recent debates, without a blow-away winner. As usual, Romney and Giuliani did well, though neither was given enough time to produce a stunning performance. Apart from the first twenty minutes, neither saw much of the spot light, and, when they did, they were given odd (and often, irrelevant) questions. Mitt Romney was asked about making Arabs feel welcome in America, and Giuliani was asked if London would replace New York as the financial capital of the World. While Romney handled this question well, Giuliani’s response left me scratching my head. Rather than give the question a dignified answer, he started laughing – in a very Clinton-esque manner.
The sad part is, that the high-light of the debate was a short exchange between Romney and Thompson, not on taxes or spending, but on Thompson’s late start. Romney made a remark that “This is like Law and Order, with a big cast, and Fred Thompson not showing up until the end.” Thompson managed to produce a quick response, and everyone got a laugh out of it. While it was relatively funny – the fact that a joke is the most memorable part of the debate is a very sad thing.
In the end, I think Romney won – with Rudy a close second. Thanks to a little bit of self promotion, and, once again, his Presidential qualities, Romney managed to get a couple bonus points. All that said, this debate was not the turning point I thought it might have been. In fact, I would be very surprised if this debate produced any major, lasting changes in the polls.
As always, feel free to add your own thoughts and analysis in the comments section.