Claws Emerge in GOP Debate

Rick Moran
The normally staid and genteel GOP debates were anything but last night as the candidates went after each other's scalps on issues from tort reform to trying to prove one of their rivals wasn't conservative enough to lead the party.

From this observers point of view, John McCain scored well against Mitt Romney, all but calling the former Massachusetts governor a phony conservative while Fred Thompson got in a few good jabs at Rudy Giuliani on so-called "
sanctuary cities."


"Mayor Giuliani believes in federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary cities. He's for gun control. He supported Mario Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, against a Republican who was running for governor; then opposed the governor's tax cuts when he was there," Thompson said.

Giuliani, however, was prepared to rebut accusations that he is not a "real Republican" — a term frequently used at conservative forums in the days leading up to Sunday night's debate. He said not only did he reduce taxes and balance the budget, but he "drove pornography out of Times Square."

"I had the most legal city in the country. And I took the crime capital of America and I turned it into the safest large city in the country. The senator has never had executive responsibility. He's never had the weight of people's safety and security on his shoulders," he said, responding to Thompson.
It was certainly the most animated and interesting of all the debates so far. Romney seemed a little more subdued than normal although he came across as smooth and well prepared as usual. Guiliani was sharp, witty, and on point with most of his answers - another great job. McCain also seemed a little off his game although he got off the line of the night when talking about Hillary's support for a $1 million grant to the Woodstock concert museum:

"I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time," McCain said earning a standing ovation for the not-so-veiled reference to his five-and-a-half year confinement in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp.
That line even elicited applause from his fellow candidates.

Mike Huckabee was his usual engaging self but didn't stand out as he has in some past debates. The three minor candidates - Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul - might as well have stayed home.

One interesting note about Ron Paul. For the first time, his supporters didn't dominate the room as they have in past debates. The boos from the crowd in reaction to Paul's criticisms of the war and the GOP drowned out the "Paulbots" who can generally be counted on to cheer their candidate's anti-war positions lustily. The effect on Paul was to disconcert him, making him seem even more shrill and out of control than usual. If anyone was going to take a serious look at him last night, I'm sure they were disappointed.

Fred Thompson may have done himself the most good. He was animated and forceful at times - a far cry from his tired, subdued performance his first time out. And he seemed to get the better of his exchanges with Giuliani, actually putting the former Mayor on the defensive quite effectively.

All in all, an interesting evening - even if, like me, you were switching back and forth between the NFL, the ALCS, and the debate. A hard night to be a sports fan and political junkie as
I talk about here.
The normally staid and genteel GOP debates were anything but last night as the candidates went after each other's scalps on issues from tort reform to trying to prove one of their rivals wasn't conservative enough to lead the party.

From this observers point of view, John McCain scored well against Mitt Romney, all but calling the former Massachusetts governor a phony conservative while Fred Thompson got in a few good jabs at Rudy Giuliani on so-called "
sanctuary cities."


"Mayor Giuliani believes in federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary cities. He's for gun control. He supported Mario Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, against a Republican who was running for governor; then opposed the governor's tax cuts when he was there," Thompson said.

Giuliani, however, was prepared to rebut accusations that he is not a "real Republican" — a term frequently used at conservative forums in the days leading up to Sunday night's debate. He said not only did he reduce taxes and balance the budget, but he "drove pornography out of Times Square."

"I had the most legal city in the country. And I took the crime capital of America and I turned it into the safest large city in the country. The senator has never had executive responsibility. He's never had the weight of people's safety and security on his shoulders," he said, responding to Thompson.
It was certainly the most animated and interesting of all the debates so far. Romney seemed a little more subdued than normal although he came across as smooth and well prepared as usual. Guiliani was sharp, witty, and on point with most of his answers - another great job. McCain also seemed a little off his game although he got off the line of the night when talking about Hillary's support for a $1 million grant to the Woodstock concert museum:

"I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time," McCain said earning a standing ovation for the not-so-veiled reference to his five-and-a-half year confinement in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp.
That line even elicited applause from his fellow candidates.

Mike Huckabee was his usual engaging self but didn't stand out as he has in some past debates. The three minor candidates - Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul - might as well have stayed home.

One interesting note about Ron Paul. For the first time, his supporters didn't dominate the room as they have in past debates. The boos from the crowd in reaction to Paul's criticisms of the war and the GOP drowned out the "Paulbots" who can generally be counted on to cheer their candidate's anti-war positions lustily. The effect on Paul was to disconcert him, making him seem even more shrill and out of control than usual. If anyone was going to take a serious look at him last night, I'm sure they were disappointed.

Fred Thompson may have done himself the most good. He was animated and forceful at times - a far cry from his tired, subdued performance his first time out. And he seemed to get the better of his exchanges with Giuliani, actually putting the former Mayor on the defensive quite effectively.

All in all, an interesting evening - even if, like me, you were switching back and forth between the NFL, the ALCS, and the debate. A hard night to be a sports fan and political junkie as
I talk about here.