I just finished my spot on NECN and have gotten a chance to think about the Republican debate.
• Mitt Romney – More people are going to discover Romney, whose poll numbers have been slowing rising. Kristy Lee of NECN asked me if Romney came across, more or less, as too artificial. While I have to concede Romney’s at times plastic quality, he nonetheless was the most prepared and verbally fluid of the candidates. Romney’s a good debater. He fought hard against Ted Kennedy, eviscerated Shannon O’Brien and performed well last night.
• John McCain – I can’t get his line about Bin Laden, “I will follow him to the gates of Hell” out of my mind. It was gripping and creepy. Somehow, stylistically, McCain’s got to find a way to talk tough without sounding nuts. Ronald Reagan had the ability to drape his projection of American strength towards the Soviets and terrorists in effective but palatable rhetoric. Maybe the difference between how McCain spent his youth, North Vietnamese prison camp, as compared to Reagan, rustling up cattle thieves and inspiring the Fighting Irish football team in Hollywood, accounts for their differing demeanors.
• Rudolph Giuliani – Giuliani is coasting. While speeches are not his strong suit, he’s got to understand that he’s going to be seriously questioned during this presidential campaign. If candidates are not mentally ready for the constant grilling that comes with a run for the presidency, they ought not run. Only now does Giuliani seem to realize that he can’t run on 9/11 alone. He’ll be queried on a variety of subjects, from his wife to Iraq to abortion and gay rights to Bernard Kerik. If he’s prepared, the campaign is already over.
• Fred Thompson – Last night’s debate left Peggy Noonan mooning over Thompson. I think the sense among Republicans that each of the “Big Three” candidates is incomplete is leading to an irrational over-valuing of what Thompson would bring to the race. Yes, he’s articulate and would perform well in a debate. But his experience and stature are both somewhat limited.