Having been smart enough to avoid drinking at every mention of Reagan's name last night, I'm sober and alert this morning (er, early afternoon) and ready to report on the right's reaction to last night's festivities.
Look, Rudy, you're not pro-life. But you're trying not to offend the Republican base. The best approach is to be honest. This is not an issue for obfuscation. And if you continue down this road, it will only get worse. [...]At Human Events, Nathanael Blake is feeling significantly less charitable:
Make the case for federalism and make the case for strictly limiting abortion. Mitt Romney, whose position has changed in the last two years (and good for him), and John McCain, who has done nothing in over 20 years in Washington to advance the pro-life cause (indeed, it wasn't that long ago when he was at war with Evangelicals) aren't standing on the firmest ground either. However, they've staked out their positions with clarity and can articulate them whenever called upon to do so.
[H]e's offering pro-lifers almost nothing. "Vote for me and I'll appoint judges who might rule that abortion isn't a constitutional right." Not an attractive proposition for pro-lifers who believe that abortion is murder and therefore the most important moral issue in our nation.Byron York reports on the "Crazy John McCain" angle:
Of course, Rudy might do quite well among those who aren't pro-life, but he's alienating those of us who are, and we're a majority in the GOP base.
“McCain looked like something out of The Shining, that part where Jack Nicholson goes GGGRRRRRR!” confided one adviser from a rival campaign.Kathleen Parker is a little more direct:
“McCain looked like that guy down the street who yells at you to get off his lawn,” said one reporter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Sen. John McCain’s surrogates in the Spin Room, preferred the word “passionate.” But the fact is, McCain did look a little overeager, or maybe overcaffeinated, at the beginning of the debate. But he was overeager and overcaffeinated in favor of tracking down Osama bin Laden, a position which, given that bin Laden is still at large more than five years after 9/11, seems unlikely to meet with much disapproval.
“He’s responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans,” McCain said of bin Laden. “He’s now orchestrating other attacks on the United States of America. We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell.”
Reading the transcript of the debate, the answer seems both solid and catchy. But the transcript does not show the strange little smile McCain made after he said “gates of hell.” Maybe he was relishing the prospect of getting bin Laden. Maybe he just liked saying “gates of hell” in a nationally televised political debate. In any event, like much of McCain’s performance Thursday night, it looked better in print than on TV.
McCain made me want to spirit valium to Simi Valley before he followed Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell. His answers and delivery seemed canned and cartoonish.Some people think he won, though.
If anyone stood out from the other candidates, in terms of looking polished and poised, it was clearly Mr. Romney. He got off some of the best lines of the night, partially because Chris Matthews gave him some oddball questions (I particularly liked: "I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want." [see: 8:38]). He, more than any of the others, managed to sound reasonable and assured no matter what he was saying. He's still got a major flip-flopping problem, and basically lied about it during his answers on abortion. But any casual observer of the debate (were there any non-junkies watching?) would probably have to view him as head-and-shoulders above the others.All this analysis probably overestimates the importance of a May 2007 debate, which was watched by a pretty small slice of the American electorate. Kevin Drum points to a Survey USA poll of California voters who think Rudy won -- he notes that the results appear to "mostly just track how popular the candidates were before the debate even took place."
The most praised person was, of course, Ronald Reagan. The candidates put as little distance as possible between themselves and Reagan. The debate may have been forgettable. Reagan wasn't.For better, as they say, or for worse.