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Showtime in Simi Valley
Andrew Sullivan: "The good news is that they all understand that the Iraq war has been a disaster in terms of execution. No one defended Bush's handling of it - who can? - but McCain's strong criticism of a 'badly mismanaged' war gave him the edge in my book. McCain was easily the strongest on spending (although, of course, my softest spot on that front was for Ron Paul). He also forthrightly supported evolution which puts him in the ranks of sane Republicans . . .
"I have to say I found Romney smarmy beyond even my expectations. The man will obviously say and do anything to get power or please a crowd. His low-point: 'Gosh, I love America.' Really? Giuliani is simply not a very impressive speaker or debater, and his chilling call for a tamper-proof I.D. card for all immigrants sent shivers up my spine. His ability to defend abortion rights was, however, impressive if only because it required offending someone."
Red State's Erick Erickson: "John McCain won. Let's not dance around this. Mitt Romney shined, he stood out, he did well. Rudy Giuliani imploded. Rudy totally and utterly self-destructed tonight. He had many chances to get in good with the core base of Republican voters and ignored every moment.
"But McCain cuisine reigned supreme. He served up a dish of anger, a willingness to criticize, and a desire to fight -- hard."
Erick also had words for the moderator: "Matthews has asked some of the most worthless questions of any debate moderator ever . . . Please notice that the Democrats ran and hid from Fox News and the GOP has graciously subjected itself to a moderator who was grew up in politics as a partisan Democratic political hack and a network that airs Keith Olbermann."
Polling alert! Possible CW shift! Power Line's Paul Mirengoff offers a pro-Rudy spin:
"A new set of polls by the American Research Group shows Giuliani trailing McCain by 26-19 in Iowa; trailing McCain and Romney by 29-24-17 in New Hampshire; and trai[n]ing McCain 36-23 in South Carolina.
"One way these results might be reconciled is by noting that McCain and Romney have been focused forever (or so it seems) on these early states, while Giuliani is a relative newcomer in them."
In the New York Sun, Ryan Sager doesn't sugarcoat it for Rudy:
"Compared to Quinnipiac's last national poll in February, Mr. Giuliani fell to 27% from 40% -- a huge tumble. Mr. Romney barely budged, going to 8% from 7%. Mr. McCain also barely budged, going to 19% from 18%. And Mr. Thompson burst onto the scene, coming in at 14%, having not been included in the last poll (and, as usual, stealing third place from Mr. Romney, despite not having lifted a finger).
"So, the bad news for Mr. Giuliani is obvious: a big tumble, and the appearance that it has been caused almost entirely by Mr. Thompson stealing a big chunk of his support out from under him. The bad news for Mr. Romney is equally obvious: that he's being overshadowed by a guy who's not even in the race. As for the good news for Mr. Thompson: He's doing great for a guy not doing anything."
On the Democratic side, Dick Polman gives the governor of New Mexico a failing grade: