Saturday, January 05, 2008

Senator McCain “wins,” tonight’s New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate

The Republican Presidential candidate tonight focused on the War, the surge, terrorism, which candidate would like to put some distance between President Bush and the candidate, illegal immigration, health care and health care insurance, the high price of oil, becoming energy self sufficient and how the Republican Presidential candidates differ from Barack Obama. The Debate was sponsored by ABC, Facebook and WMUR TV in New Hampshire.

Tonight’s winner, especially from the context of winning over New Hampshire voters, was John McCain. McCain took charge in several areas, cut off Romney and got away from it. Perhaps that is a sign of leadership. McCain argued only he, among the candidates, did three important things: supported the War, criticized the management of the War and supported the Surge before it was adopted.

A number of times, tonight, McCain characterized Romney as essentially being a flip flopper. More importantly, McCain warded off attacks by Romney of McCain and cut off Romney’s responses, at will. Romney seemed unable to do anything about getting the time to deliver a full response to McCain’s attacks —and Charlie Gibson, the moderator, seemed to have neither the inclination nor the ability to control McCain’s interruptions of Romney’s efforts to respond.

Giuliani presented well, as usual, on terrorism, the War and health care insurance, but seemed to be playing second fiddle to McCain and Romney. Thompson make several good points during the debate, such as the price of oil being determined by demand and supply—not by the big, bad U. S. oil companies, as the Democrat candidates would argue (But, Thompson should have noted the important role played by OPEC). However, Thompson presented so poorly, as he usually does, his more thoughtful arguments than usual did little to improve his standing among viewers and voters.

Ron Paul was the foil for all of the other candidates to argue their support for the Iraq War and a U. S. military presence in such countries as Saudi Arabia. Paul uses the debates to rally his libertarian supporters, especially on the war, and tonight was no different than the others.

Huckabee stayed in the background, backed off from his prior sharp criticism from Bush and did a reasonably good job of appearing above the fray. He also made a nice argument for the importance of the Republican Party being for change. He seemed to recognize that the best he could do this evening was look like a top tier candidate, gain a few points to move a little closer to the New Hampshire second place Romney and try to help McCain win New Hampshire in hopes that might ultimately, or in short order, knock Romney out of the race. Romney, with his wealth and organization, is a major threat to Huckabee.

If Thompson and Romney drop out, Huckabee thinks his chances of winning the nomination go way up because he becomes the only southerner in the race and the only candidate with currently comprehensive conservative social and economic positions. Other candidates will argue with him on the latter, but that is the Huckabee view and strategy.

Taking all of the above into account, Senator McCain did more to help himself tonight in the New Hampshire Republican primary than anyone else, so he won the debate.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Richardson, Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at
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