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Analyzing The Debate From Plato’s Cave

Sunday, August 5, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Didn’t watch it. Went to church as I suspect the majority of GOP primary voters did, with the other half on vacation, on the golf course, or just loafing through a Sunday morning.

So I am sorting through the post-debate campaign releases, and the best one-liner and the best spin definitely comes from Team Romney:

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza: “Former Gov. Mitt Romney is the frontrunner in Iowa and he’s at the center of the debate at its start.” (Chris Cillizza, “Republican Debate In Iowa Begins,” Washington Post’s The Fix, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/ 8/5/07)

Time‘s Mark Halperin: “I think Governor Romney had the best performance overall. He’s been strong in all the debates, comes very well prepared.” (ABC WOI-DM’s “Vote 2008 Special,” 8/5/07)

Time’s Mark Halperin: “Mitt Romney gets an A. I couldn’t find a lot of things to criticize in his performance. He faced some tough questions, but he did a good job handling it. It’s becoming clich to say, but he looks and sounds like a president. For a lot of voters that’s important.” (ABC WOI-DM’s “Vote 2008 Special,” 8/5/07)

ABC News Political Director David Chalian: “I think Mitt Romney had a really strong performance. … I think from then on out, he had a very smooth, solid performance, and continues to show why he is leading in these early states.” (ABC WOI-DM’s “Vote 2008 Special,” 8/5/07)

The Politico’s Jonathan Martin: “The pre-packaged one-liner of the morning. At least so far. Romney on Obama’s desire to meet with enemy leaders and hawkish views on Pakistan: ‘He’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.'” (Jonathan Martin, “The View From Across The Street,” The Politico, http://www.politico.com/blogs/jonathanmartin/ 8/5/07)

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez: “I didn’t know where [Romney]’d go from the McCain, Giuliani start there…. hitting Obama ‘from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove’ was pretty funny, and to point. And a good ending on the military and the surge.” (Kathryn Jean Lopez, “The Corner,” National Review Blog, http://corner.nationalreview.com , 6/5/07)

The Politico’s Jonathan Martin “Republican pollster and author Frank Luntz and Fox News have set up a dial group of 29 GOP primary voters from the Des Moines area … Asked who was winning the debate so far, about a dozen said Romney.” (Jonathan Martin, “The View From Across The Street,” The Politico, http://www.politico.com/blogs/jonathanmartin/ 8/5/07)

The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin: “One small but influential group of voters — a bit like Iowa itself, come to think of it — had Mitt Romney winning at the halfway point.” (Jonathan Martin, “The View Across The Street,” The Politico, 8/5/07)

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez: “From the ‘normal American’ focus group that just dropped by my Corner Debate Watching Headquarters … ‘Romney seems the most pleasant and presidential.’ Coming off that YouTube fighting with that radio host, he seems like a guy revving for the fight. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, “The Corner,” National Review Blog, http://corner.nationalreview.com , 6/5/07)

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez: “‘Moving Islam toward modernity’… Romney’s attitude sounds a little like Ronald Reagan’s cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union. And it strikes me as a real-world approach taking into consideration the problems we face run deep.” (Kathryn Jean Lopez, “The Corner,” National Review Blog, http://corner.nationalreview.com/ , 6/5/07)

ABC News Political Radar: “Romney has a pretty effective-if not down-the-line conservative-answer on healthcare: ‘We have to have our citizens insured.’ And he took a subtle jab at Giuliani’s new health care plan, which relies on tax breaks to encourage individuals to obtain health coverage.” (ABC News, “Live Blogging From Sunday’s Democratic Debate,” http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/, 8/5/07)

Team Giuliani sends along this:

Townhall.com’s Matt Lewis: “I’ve got to declare Rudy Giuliani the winner today.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

  • Lewis: “[I]t has now become apparent that Rudy Giuliani is the leader when it comes to ideas. Several times, he has injected a new idea which then, other candidates copied.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)
  • Lewis: “Rudy has clearly thought-through the questions and answers to a greater degree than the other candidates.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

ABC News’ Rick Klein: “[Giuliani] has some serious support in the hall …” (Rick Klein, “Live Blogging From Sunday’s Democratic Debate,” ABC News’ “Political Radar” Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

  • Klein: Rudy “got what appeared to be the most applause upon entering the room …” (Rick Klein “Live Blogging From Sunday’s Democratic Debate,” ABC News’ “Political Radar” Blog, http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

The American Spectator’s Jennifer Rubin: “Rudy shows most command of detail and is making his case effectively that NYC experience matters.” (Jennifer Rubin, “Debate 5,” The American Spectator’s “AmSpecBlog,” http://www.spectator.org/blogger.asp?BlogID=7507, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

  • Rubin: “[Giuliani] weaves his command of detail and his NYC experience into answers impressively.” (Jennifer Rubin, “Debate Wrap Up,” The American Spectator’s “AmSpecBlog,” http://www.spectator.org/blogger.asp?BlogID=7510, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

The New York Times’ Katharine Q. Seelye: “Giuliani took to the question [on raising taxes] the way King Kong might take the Empire State Building.” (Katharine Q. Seelye, “Sunday Morning Debate Blogging,” The New York Times’ “The Caucus” Blog, http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez: Rudy displayed “the right instincts.” (Kathryn Jean Lopez, “The Right Instincts,” National Review Online’s “The Corner” Blog, http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MWNiMmU5NDZiNmU2ZjU4MGRlNWNkODk3NDIzYzU1MTE, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

Townhall.com’s Matt Lewis: “Rudy is brillaint [sic] at these debates.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, www.townhall.com/blog/g/5ad983e3-7d46-421f-93c8-74d5f8e26d2b,, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

  • Lewis: “[Giuliani] refuses to accept the assumptions of the questioners … Other candidates should learn this lesson.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)
  • Lewis: “Rudy scores points by being the first to refer to ‘socialized healthcare.'” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)
  • Lewis: “Giuliani points out that in 4 Democrat debates, the words Islamic extremism were never mentioned. He points out that Iraq is a battle in a larger war.” (Matt Lewis, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Townhall.com’s Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

The Washington Posts’ Chris Cillizza: “Giuliani is certainly on message.” (Chris Cillizza, “Giuliani Continues To Slam Democrats,” The Washington Posts’ The Fix” Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

  • Cillizza: “Giuliani’s strident criticism of Democrats on security and taxes are aimed at showing Republican primary voters that he is plenty conservative to represent them in the general election.” (Chris Cillizza, “Giuliani Continues To Slam Democrats,” The Washington Posts’ The Fix” Blog, 8/5/07, Accessed 8/5/07)

Senator McCain’s ship e-mails:

John McCain “Shines When He Reminds Us Of Stakes In Iraq”

The American Spectator’s Jennifer Rubin: “McCain … Shines When He Reminds Us Of Stakes In Iraq.” (Jennifer Rubin, “Debate 5,” American Spectator Blog, 8/5/07)

ABC News: “McCain Looks Strong On The War Again.” (ABC News, “Live Blogging From Sunday’s Democratic Debate,” “Political Radar” Blog, 8/5/07)

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez Cheers McCain Iraq Stance: “You Go, Senator.” “John McCain feels my pain. ‘We will not set a date for surrender, as the Democrats want us to.’ You, go, senator.” (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review’s The Corner Blog, 8/5/07)

Red State’s California Yankee: “My Favorite Moments … McCain Remains Firm On The War …” (California Yankee, “Republicans Debate In Iowa,” Red State Blog, 8/5/07)

John McCain “Awesome” When Decrying Pork-Barrel Spending

The New York Sun’s Liz Mair: “McCain Is On Pork. Awesome. … This Is Where I Love McCain.” (Liz Mair Blog, www.lizmair.com, 8/5/07)

The American Spectator’s Jennifer Rubin: “McCain gives it to Congress for porkbarrel spending rather than infrastructure maintenance …” (Jennifer Rubin, “Debate 5,” American Spectator Blog, 8/5/07)

The Politico’s Jonathan Martin: “[McCain] appeared to come to life when he was able to address a favorite topic: pork. Decrying the earmark-heavy highway bill that included the now-famous ‘bridge to nowhere,’ McCain pointed out that the same legislation included ‘not one dime’ for ‘bridge inspection.'” (Jonathan Martin, “A Good Moment For McCain,” The Politico’s “Jonathan Martin” Blog, 8/5/07)

McCain Brings Humor To Morning Debate

MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro: “McCain bringing a little humor to it with what the responsibilities of a VP should or would be. He said he’s thought a lot about it having been considered for that post several times one of those responsibilities is being aware of the president’s health! Ha.” (Domenico Montanaro, “And We’re Back,” MSNBC’s First Read Blog, 8/5/07)

Time Magazine’s Ana Marie Cox: “[McCain] gets off a great, relaxed line about how the VP has two duties: to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate and ‘inquire daily as to the health of the president.’ … He sums up seriously, saying that he’d give the VP a portfolio, but that he’d make sure ‘that everyone understands there’s only one president.’ Snap.” (Ana Marie Cox, “Liveblogging: Girding Loins In Des Moines,” Time’s “Swampland” Blog, 8/5/07)

Compare these three releases, and you instantly see that Governor Romney is leading with the strongest set of authorities and quotes when it comes to post-debate analysis, but that Mayor Giuliani is not far behind. Senator McCain is quoting Red State’s “California Yankee,” Ana Marie Cox and Domenico Montanaro. Advantage Romney. I’ll play the interesting selections tomorrow, but Senator Strangelove Obama will get the most play across all media, and that’s a big plus. The GOP wants a candidate who will take it to Clinton-Obama, and while Rudy has already shown his willingness to do that, Romney caught up with today’s telling barb.

Clearly the race has entered a stage where Romney and Giuliani are locked in a tight, compelling contest with Romney holding an advantage in Iowa and New Hamnpshire the he will hope to use to catapult past the mayor in Florida. Senator Thompson’s fan dance has gotten old, and I suspect skipping this and future debates sours more than entices the electorate. Unlike the Dems, the GOP’s top tier has avoided throwing haymakers at each other, which is a very good thing this far out from the actual votes.

On to Ames, where vote totals at least provide some hard data on which to base the spin.

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