Immediately after the debate I listed those second tier candidates I thought did the most for their campaign. Duncan Hunter showed that he does have the skills necessary to hang with the big guys, Gov. Gilmore and Gov. Huckabee both did well, neither one was the embarrassment I feared they might be.
Now, let's talk about those "big guys";
By all accounts Rudy Giuliani was the front runner going into the event, I suspect that is no longer the case. I was quite surprised by Rudy's poor performance. He led off the first round, and from his stuttery, almost flailing response I half expected to see an "Admiral Stockdale" moment from him before the 90 minutes were up.
That was very odd because Giuliani often speaks off the cuff with no prepared remarks and does very well in that mode. Why he was so visibly nervous last night eludes me, unless he was having subconscious second thoughts that (horrors) he might actually win.
look for YouTube video clips of John McCain to be featured on Democratic blogs in the next few days. His wild arm gestures and finger pointing, while not rising to Howard Dean level, will not go missed by the hit and run Democratic blogs. I did like his "gates of hell" quote, though.
Of the big three Mitt Romney was the clear winner. His solid performance should move him to within inches of Giuliani and Fred Thompson, especially after Rudy's self inflicted wounds from last night begin to bleed on numerous commentaries in the coming days.
The "debate" format was strange, to put it mildly. It reminded me more of a game show with too many contestants. Matthews was harsh, abrasive, and clearly partisan. He could not have given more credence to the "liberal media" charge if he had specifically gone on stage with that intent. But all 10 candidates are to be commended for unflinchingly (well, Giuliani did flinch quite a bit) agreeing to a debate in what was known beforehand to be a hostile environment. No, the Reagan Library is not the environment I'm speaking of. I mean the land of Kieth Olberman and Chris Matthews, MSNBC. Contrast that with the way the Democrats peeled away like sparrows upon sighting a falcon from a debate scheduled on Fox.