I thought Rudy Giuliani came off the winner, and John McCain made a strong - if stiff - showing.
Giuliani seemed confident and poised. He stayed on message in stressing his leadership in New York City, and didn't harp on the 9/11 attacks. He certainly seems the one to beat at this point in the campaign.
I still like John McCain, of course, even though his campaign's pretty much dropped to the bottom of the barrel organizationally. McCain best represent my interests as a national security voter. Here's an inspiring excerpt from McCain's comments at the debate:
I’ve spent my life on national security issues. I’ve taken unpopular stands because I knew what was right. Back in 2003, amid criticism from my fellow Republicans, I spoke strongly against the then-Rumsfeld strategy which I knew was doomed to failure and caused so much needless sacrifice. I advocated very strongly the new strategy that some Democrats have called the McCain strategy -- (chuckles) -- which it is not, and I believe that the strategy is winning. I know the conflict. I know war. I have seen war. I know how the military works. I know how the government works. I understand national security.McCain did well in promoting the surge, particularly in response to Mitt Romney's missteps on the war. Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard provides a nice analysis of the impact of the debate for McCain's White House chances:
I have led. I had -- I was once the commanding officer of the largest squadron in the United States Navy. I didn’t manage it; I led it.
How far McCain went last night in reviving his battered campaign is unclear. A single strong debate performance can't, by itself, resurrect a candidacy. But it can help by guaranteeing McCain more press coverage--and more respectful treatment, at that--and perhaps a bump in the polls that come out almost daily.I'm hoping McCain can ressurrect some of his 2000 New Hampshire magic. I'm not so sure he'll be able to, however, especially with his problems of money and staff plaguing his organization.
By the way, a focus group of 29 New Hampshire Republicans conducted during the debate by pollster Frank Luntz found McCain to be the winner.