Tonight’s New Hampshire debate had some interesting moments. Fred seemed to be at the center of most of those moments.

When Mike Huckabee was asked what he meant when he said that President Bush’s foreign policy was too arrogant, Gov. Huckabee explained that he meant that we should’ve sent in more troops into Iraq.

Fred immediately pounced on that, saying that “I think the Governor has rethought what he said because now he seems to be saying that we were arrogant because we didn’t go in with enough troops.” It isn’t the type of thing that changes the course of the rest of the debate but it’s something that Fred will use when the campaign moves to South Carolina. It’s something that Huckabee will have to ‘rethink’ again.

Another great Fred moment was one of Mitt’s low moments. Charlie Gibson asked, in the context of talking about Mitt’s health care plan, if Mitt liked mandates, to which Mitt said “Oh no, I like mandates.” Fred jumped in, saying “I didn’t think you’d admit that tonight.”

When Ron Paul talked about health care, he said that Charlie Gibson had provided the answer why we don’t have universal health care. Paul said that we don’t have health care because we’re waging a “trillion dollar war” and that we need to “stop printing new money.” Fred’s response was direct. “So you’re saying if we stopped printing more money, we could get out of Iraq and give everybody health care”?

Frankly, Ron Paul is giving libertarianism a bad name with some of his answers. When he talked about the terrorists’ war against civilization, Rep. Paul asked why the terrorists haven’t hit Canada. He said that terrorists aren’t hitting other nations. Rudy jumped all over that, saying that terrorists had hid Bali and London, then asking why the terrorists had hit the 1972 Munich Olympics or killed Leon Klinghoffer. Mitt Romney cited the Madrid train bombings.

Here’s Fred’s best exchange with Rudy:

Frankly, I didn’t think that Mike, Mitt, McCain or Rudy distinguished themselves tonight. Of that bunch, I thought Rudy helped himself the most because he cited his 12 commitments and for citing specific plans for increasing the size of our military.

Still, the night belonged to Fred. Tonight’s performance is what I envisioned when I first started talking about Fred 23 months ago. I told my fring King Banaian that Fred’s depth of knowledge on all the issues would make him a great debater. Tonight, Fred showcased his debating skills.

I don’t think that tonight’s performance will give him a big uptick in New Hampshire because he isn’t really competing there. I do think that tonight’s performance will (a) strengthen him greatly in South Carolina and (b) dispel the myth that he’s planning on dropping out soon.

Speaking of which, Robert Novak is reporting where the Thompson dropping out stories originated:

Published reports that Fred Thompson soon will withdraw from the Republican presidential contest and endorse Sen. John McCain have been traced in part to Mitt Romney’s campaign, trying to stir up strife between McCain and Thompson.

Back to the debate, here’s what Marc Ambinder says:

On points, Fred Thompson won the debate.

Every answer was thoughtful and well-crafted; his tone matched the tone of the question; he wisely refrained from interjecting in the back and forth squabbling. He very deftly reminded viewers that he served on key Senate national security panels and is bringing his experience to bear. Even his insults were subtly and gently constructed In some ways, Thompson did McCain’s bidding. You skeptical readers can tell me that if Thompson had finished a solid fourth in Iowa, I might not be writing about Thompson at all, that said, he’s still a candidate, and his performance tonight tells me his mind is not elsewhere.

McCain will likely win New Hampshire but Fred’s got his sights set on winning South Carolina. At this point, I won’t bet against that.

UPDATE: Peter Robinson makes this great observation:

If (as I expect) Romney fares badly in New Hampshire, Thompson will be the obvious choice for conservatives. He’s going to prove an easy man to rally around.

Here’s the rest of Robinson’s post on tonight’s debate:

With respect to Brother Jonathan, in my judgment Fred Thompson turned in a very fine performance, the more effective for proving underplayed. The others fought, bickered, attempted to demonstrate their brains. Naturally enough, they commanded the viewer’s immediate attention. But did they look like chief executives of a great nation? Or like candidates for a student council? Thompson stood, in effect, to one side, quiet and dignified, speaking less often, perhaps, but with cogency and principle. Thompson alone conveyed a sense of gravitas. He looked, spoke, and comported himself like a president.

Here’s what Andy McCarthy said:

Rich and Mark Steyn are right, and I was wrong. I always think it’s strange when the great athletes talk about letting the game come to them. But that’s how this format worked for Fred, and when called on he did great. I thought his explanation of healthcare economics was staggeringly good; I don’t see how you could do it better in this format. And when he went into trial lawyer mode, cross-examining the other candidates, he did in the effective way, no screaming, but pressing (patiently but insistently) for an answer. Very nicely done.

Both gentlemen are right on the mark. Fred’s always had the gravitas factor nailed. Fred knows as much about national security as McCain and Giuliani. Fred also knows as much about health care and immigration as Mitt. Nobody has the full package like Fred.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at California Conservative

2 Responses to “NH Debate Recap”

  • The problem though for Fred is that the press seems to ignore him in favor of Mitt, Rudy, Huck, McCain, and even Ron. Other than passing comments I just don’t hear a lot about him from sources outside you and Leo.

    I’ll give him this, he does have a low key charisma about him that makes him likeable. It must be that southern charm or something.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, There’s something transformative happening this year. We The People aren’t letting the media machine tell us what to do.

    That’s why Obama clobbered HRC. That’s why Huckabee clobbered Mitt.

    Fred’s waging a very web-savvy campaign. Will he win the nomination? I hope so but I’m not predicting it…yet.

    Fred’s got the total package in terms of gravitas, measured tone to his replies & tons of humor & personality.

Leave a Reply