Well, the debate is over, and, as you have probably seen by now, the spin machine is working overtime. Here is my take on how the candidates did, including both a grade and rank:
Mitt Romney (Rank – 1) (Grade – A): Romney demonstrated an impressive mastery of issues that was unmatched. He successfully fended off attacks by McCain and Huckabee, and schooled Ron Paul in military policy. He remained calm and on-focus even when other candidates wanted to launch personal and irrelevant attacks.
Rudy Giuliani (Rank – 2) (Grade – A-):Giuliani didn’t do anything wrong, and he did come across as fairly strong. He didn’t get as much time as the other candidates, but he probably picked up a couple new supporters. Overall, nothing that is going to make him a frontrunner in New Hampshire, but he will at least get his name back in the papers.
Fred Thompson (Rank – 3) (Grade – B):Fred, like Giuliani, did alright, though he did not produce a stellar performance, he seemed somewhat old and somewhat tired. That said, he seemed comfortable and relaxed. I would say that Thompson’s performance neither moves him up or down in the polls – earning him a respectable grade of “B”.
Ron Paul (Rank – 4) (Grade – B-):In the past, I have ranked Paul at the bottom, but that has changed – not because Paul is any better, but because he no longer hurts himself in any big way. People know he is not a mainline Conservative, and so his blame-America rhetoric no longer impacts his support. That said, he did loose a verbal spar to Romney, so I can’t give him too high of a grade.
Mike Huckabee (Rank – 5) (Grade – C):Mike Huckabee didn’t do so well. He lost an early round to Romney, and didn’t say much else during the debate. His preacher-speak clouded his answers, so much so that the question was occasionally lost in the answer. I don’t think Huckabee killed himself, but this debate didn’t make his campaign any easier.
John McCain (Rank – 6) (Grade – D):McCain had a miserable night. He lacked substance and came off as mean and angry. His attacks on Mitt Romney sent his dial rating through the floor, and Romney’s composed manner made McCain look like a fool in comparison. In addition, Giuliani did well, which will pull from McCain. Before the debate, I would have said Romney had an uphill climb to win NH, now, I think its a tie, and Romney may even have a small advantage. His lies about his immigration plan will likely be exposed by the Romney camp. Since taking the lead in NH, McCain has not had the easiest time. Obama won the DEM caucus, McCain only managed fourth, and Romney won the debate. Where he goes from here, I don’t know.
We will see what happens now, but this race is far from over.