Wednesday, May 16, 2007

McCain, Giuliani and Romney: Win, Place and Show at the South Carolina debate

In terms of attracting voters, McCain won the Debate. He won because he came across as sincere--and seemed like the kind of guy you would trust to be President, and yes, a Republican President. He could and would reach across the aisle, which he assured the Republican voters—is what the voters across the country want.

McCain looked younger than he has when shown recently on debates or on other events on TV. The 70 year old McCain looked like he had the energy to run, win and govern as President. Giuliani scored some points, but not as many as McCain. Romney came in third—he just seems to lack sincerity. When challenged by the moderators for his flip-flops, Romney’s answers were unconvincing.

And, there was no real movement by the other seven candidates. It would be hard for anyone to break out of that pack and move into the top tier, and that surely did not happen on Tuesday night.

McCain reminded Republicans that he is enough of a conservative for them to trust him. Yes, he wants immigration reform, but one that includes real border control, a temporary worker program with a tamper proof biometric document. Yes, he favors McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, but who doesn’t think there is too much money in politics, he asked, noting also—“some of which ended up corrupting our own party.” And, he only opposed the Bush tax cuts because the Republicans didn’t restrain federal spending. Now, he wants to cut federal spending and keep the Bush tax cuts in place--Senator McCain argued at the debate.

And when ripped by Mitt Romney, who argued he was afraid McCain- Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold had done to campaign finance—McCain shot back he [unlike Romney] did not change his views on even number years or depending on what position he was seeking. And, McCain reminded the Republican stalwarts he has always been Pro-Life.

Giuliani seemed surer of himself on defending his "social issue," positions than he did in the last debate. He emphasized that while Mayor, abortions declined 16 percent and adoptions increased 133 per cent. Giuliani argued, “Everyone on this stage, including most Democrats, could probably very, very usefully spend a lot of time figuring out how we can reduce abortion [without making it illegal].”

Giuliani said the focus of immigration reform should be to know everybody who is in the U. S. He said, “We should have a tamper proof ID card; we should have a database in which we can identify the people who are in this country.” Rudy also said we need a fence. He emphasized, not unlike McCain, “we need a way that people who are working in this country can come forward, sign up for the tamper proof ID card, get in the database and start paying their way.”

Cong. Paul made Giuliani’s day when Cong. Paul said, “…They attacked us [on 9-11] because we had been over there and we had been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East.”

Giuliani asked the Fox questioner Wendell Goler if he could step out of the debate regiment and comment on what Cong. Paul said. Giuliani then responded to Paul, “That’s an extraordinary statement as someone who lived through the attack of September 11 that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sep. 11th."

For his part, Cong. Paul said, “ I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback.”

Notwithstanding that Cong. Paul may have had a point, Giuliani got credit, no doubt, for jumping on the exchange and coming across to the public as a leader. It was a shining moment for Giuliani but not enough to carry him past Senator McCain into first place for the evening.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at