Republicans ham it up on YouTube and CNN

Each candidate at the CNN-YouTube Republican debates last week had their own song and dance. Let’s take a look at the candidates: be they winners or losers of the debate, they’re players nonetheless.

Mike Huckabee
The rising star of the Republicans can mostly attribute his recent success to this last debate. Over the following weekend, he topped previous regional leader Mitt Romney in an Iowa poll, a first for any Republican. He’s also catching up to national leader Rudy Giuliani.

The ordained Baptist minister did remarkably well in the debate. His low-key presence helped him avoid being attacked, and he was smart enough to avoid involving himself with the Giuliani-Romney spats. One analyst noted that he was the only candidate who really understood the format of the debates, and that joking and showing your human side works better than political vitriol this early on.

Soundbites:
“We’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.”
“People in this country are more afraid of an audit than a mugging and there’s a reason why.”
“Maybe Hillary can be on that first rocket to Mars.”

Ron Paul
The former Texas congressman did well when answered the questions asked of him, but this Internet favorite and longshot candidate went off on tangents. Compared to his relative fiery success at some previous debates, Paul missed the mark last Thursday.

I like Paul, and it’s clear that he doesn’t have the gloss of the leading candidates — that’s a good thing, given the overt polish of the campaigns of Giuliani and Romney — but if he can’t muster up some depth in his campaign, his grassroots $12 million run won’t amount to more than nostalgia come November.

Soundbites:
“You can easily pledge to cut taxes, but you have to cut spending.”

John McCain
McCain cooled down his jets for this debate, calmly addressing gays in the military when moderator Anderson Cooper volunteered him to answer. A past criticism of McCain has been that he too quickly flies off the handle under pressure. That may have helped him lose the nomination in 2000.

He had a memorable exchange with Paul, though, when addressing the Iraq War and Paul’s isolationism. Too bad someone had asked him about the replacing the income tax with a federal sales tax.

Then again, he kept his cool, and he is by far the most experienced candidate. If he can keep the attitude, he’d make a great candidate for president, but — considering his hardline Iraq War stance — not one who would ever win against a organized Democratic ticket. But since when have the Democrats been organized?

Rudy Giuliani
The former New York City mayor got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the debate. He and Romney started squabbling right off the bat about some immigration issue or another — Giuliani’s “sanctuary city,” according to Romney, versus Romney’s “sanctuary mansion,” according to Giuliani — and his big-toothed performance didn’t improve from there.

He had a bright spot when rebutting McCain’s support of the line-item veto, a presidential power that the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional. Of course, in talking about the line-item veto McCain had also brought attention to New York City’s pork. In the end, that was a draw for Rudy, and the debate a loss.

Mitt Romney
This businessman and former Massachusetts governor has been compared to a used-car salesman more than once, and his performance in this debate fits the description. More often than not, he offered cliché, sometimes downright cheesy responses, and he was sure to look at the camera while doing it.

Romney sent the message in this debate that he’s the guy to go to if you need snake oil, Florida real estate or the Brooklyn Bridge. He was the guy Salt Lake City wanted to make the 2002 Winter Olympic Games a financial success, but he didn’t send the message that he’s the guy you want for president.

Fred Thompson
Thompson had a few good points — mostly one-liners — but the senator and former Law and Order star didn’t do so well, dropping the ball when he should have been running with it. For example, he answered a question about fixing Social Security by explaining that there’s a crisis for Social Security, with only vague references to a program he already suggested. If this other clip is his best shot, his candidacy doesn’t really stand a chance.

If he doesn’t shape up soon, he’ll be the Republican answer to Democratic candidate Mike Gravel, a former Alaskan senator parodied on Saturday Night Live by an impersonator in a straightjacket.

Duncan Hunter
Spoke up about guns, immigration, gun safety, gays in the military and guns. This man loves guns. He spoke up in a discussion of international trade, but he didn’t go far with anything. But he loves his guns. Safe guns, but guns nonetheless.

Tom Tancredo
Representative Tancredo has a tough stance on immigration — one campaign spot calls for closed borders because of the rapes and murders of Central American gangs. He’s also from Colorado, a state that must be surging with immigration problems. It’s so close to New Mexico, and that has the word, “Mexico” in it.

In the debate, however, Tancredo had a surprisingly lucid rebuttal to Huckabee’s mild support of a Mars program. Then again, as Opinion Editor Matt Gomes put it, Tancredo doesn’t like any kind of alien.

Soundbites:
“Everybody’s trying to be everything to all people. We can’t afford some things, and, by the way, going to Mars is one of them.”

For The Collegian’s continuing Election 2008 coverage, check out our related articles below.

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