A quick sample of what conservative opinion-makers are saying about the Thrilla in New Hampsha:
Conservatives believe in limited government. Yet we learned little about specific plans to cut spending.... None of them named a major program that deserves the ax.Strictest of constructionists Ed Whelan is not buying what Giuliani's selling when it comes to judicial nominations:
In explaining his position in support of legal abortion, Giuliani referred to several factors, including "my reading of the Constitution." It’s unclear what exactly Giuliani meant by that, but it’s hardly an encouraging sign that he would suggest that the Constitution—which is substantively neutral on the question of abortion policy—has any bearing on his position in support of legal abortion. Giuliani seems intent on making it as difficult as possible for proponents of judicial restraint to take seriously his talk about appointing "strict constructionists."But strategist Patrick Ruffini thinks Rudy did great:
Rudy keeps getting better and better. He went straight at the Democrats on terror, and did so credibly.... He was the only one to lay a glove on McCain on immigration, broadening it into a critique of Washington.... His lengthy critique of the Fitzmas farce, complete with Blitzer interruptions, showed leadership. Before Rudy, none of the candidates said they would pardon Scooter Libby. After him, most of them said they’d consider it. He also showed how you can talk health care and please the base.Most commentators seem to think McCain did well enough for a solid second place, despite the immigration-related cloud building over his campaign. Only Frank Luntz's focus group chose Romney as the winner.
But where were the digs, the quips, the cheap shots at rivals? Where was personal animosity? It wasn't there, except for one subtle jab of Tancredo by McCain.Barnes thinks McCain did the best, with a "forceful but not overbearing" performance. As for the slick Mike Huckabee, who by all accounts has been performing well in the debates (though some conservatives are starting to get annoyed about his evolution issues), Barnes says:
My guess is that Huckabee's skill and humor in debates, interviews, and stump speeches will give him a future in national politics. But it's unlikely to be one that involves living in the White House.Think about this. Here we have the most politically skilled evangelical presidential candidate in a long time -- ever, probably -- and yet he's being dismissed as an afterthought, even while conservative pundits spin furiously on behalf of the candidate who has openly rejected the core tenets of the Christian right. Things are changing in the conservative movement -- or maybe it's just that the conservative elites' contempt for their party's fundamentalist "foot soldiers" is finally being laid bare.