I watched the Republican "debate" last evening. For what it's worth, I thought Tommy Thompson gave one of the best answers (on making Iraq more of a legitimate federal system) and one of the worst answers (on not opposing an employer firing an employee for being gay) of the evening. Overall, I think Captain Ed's summary at the NRO symposium was on the mark:
I stand by my earlier post on how unhelpful these events with so much time left to go before the election.
I think the first question we have to answer is “How did MSNBC do?” Answer: Poorly. This presidential debate resembled a game show rather than a political forum. We had three moderators, one of whom insisted on rambling all over the stage to ask questions from the online audience. Those questions made the MTV “Boxers or briefs?” question seem thoughtful and relevant at times. One bright light apparently expected an answer to “What do you dislike most about America?” Lightning-round queries by Matthews left the candidates understandably frustrated when complex questions left no time for good answers. The format also made for uneven candidate participation; we heard less from Rudy Giuliani than we did from Ron Paul.
Mitt Romney had the best night. Calm, warm, thoughtful, and engaging, he looked and sounded like a serious presidential candidate. John McCain and Giuliani didn’t do themselves any favors, and at times did some damage, but managed to rally back to adequacy. Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, and Duncan Hunter made cases as real candidates, while Sam Brownback didn’t quite get over that hump. Tom Tancredo showed no depth outside of immigration. The two embarrassments were Tommy Thompson and Ron Paul. Thompson’s takeaway was that he doesn’t oppose firing people for being gay, while Ron Paul’s was his insistence on answering every question with a discourse on the original intent of the Constitution. Both of them should understand their roles as the GOP’s Crazy Uncle Bobs and return to the attic forthwith.
If Fred Thompson can manage to skip the rest of these debates until the primaries, he might become the consensus Republican nominee. He may have actually won this debate simply by forcing the others to endure this one without him.