If the test of a debate is memorable lines or gaffes, then Mitt Romney’s line about lawyers was a big problem. Marc Ambinder has the exact quote:
"We’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and didn’t need to do."
Dave Freddoso at NRO doesn’t buy it either. This speaks to his biggest weakness. Combine this with his line about his kids serving America. That’s a problem. At that point, Rich Lowry said, "Not very crisp. Not his greatest night."
On the other hand, Romney’s line about Fred… "Great cast and Fred Thompson comes in at the end," was quite good. As Patrick Ruffini notes, this was repeated on twitter a bunch.
If people were worried about Fred Thompson, then I think that he did pretty well. A couple of people suggested that he looked old. But the spin was, if he doesn’t fall on his face, he wins. And he didn’t. Does that mean he wins?
John McCain did pretty well. Someone is going to make fun of his squinching to hear. It is also striking that everyone is saying that McCain is right.
In the end, I would say:
- Giuliani was probably solid. Given that he is the front-runner, and didn’t botch, he is happy. Thompson may have moved the ball. Or he might have stopped the slide.
- John McCain is probably happy. Since his narrative is survival, he moved the ball.
- Fred Thompson is probably happy. He didn’t face plant, so he moved the ball.
- Mitt Romney is probably less happy. I talked about these above.
- I like Huckabee, but I don’t have great memories of him tonight.
- The others…. Not so much.
No clear winner, but incremental progress for McCain and Giuliani. Thompson does what he has to. Romney struggles. Again.