As has been the case for most of the debates, most of the chatter is about how the event was handled instead of what we actually learned from the candidates. Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard has a scathing column at the top of memeorandum:
HERE WE WERE on Wednesday, a nation of political junkies gathered around our televisions to watch the candidates debate each other one last time, and we had as a moderator one Carolyn Washburn, the editor of the Des Moines Register. I don’t mean to go all East-coast-elitist on you; I’m sure there are people in Iowa who could capably moderate a presidential debate. Unfortunately, and obviously, Carolyn Washburn is not one of them.
The bulk of the post-debate analysis will probably focus on how maladroit Washburn was at the job. She did the impossible–she moderated the last Iowa debate between the Republican candidates before caucuses and yet saw to it that none of the candidates engaged each other. In other words, the moderator ensured that the debate would be as lively as a 12 part PBS series on “How Grass Grows.” A personal aside to the Des Moines Register–“boring” is not synonymous with “serious.”
The problems went beyond Washburn’s lack of mad moderating skillz. From the outset, Washburn announced that the candidates would not be discussing either Iraq or immigration. Swell! It’s the biggest debate of the season, so let’s take the two biggest issues off the table. For what it’s worth, Washburn brought all the charm to her assignment of a latter-day Nurse Ratched.
Ouch, I sort of feel sorry for Ms Washburn because her performance has received nearly universal derision. Barnett goes on to give his opinion of who did best in the debate, such as it was. He thinks Fred Thompson came out the winner and he liked Romney’s performance, which is pretty much the consensus. However, I see that Rick Klein at ABC news is still pushing Huckabee: ANALYSIS: Huckabee Shines in Lackluster Debate
Well, that was … thoroughly uninteresting. And that is fantastic, spectacular news for new Republican front-runner Mike Huckabee, and a giant missed opportunity for Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and all the rest of the would-be Iowa contenders.
Mike Huckabee: Nothing happened to slow his momentum, and plenty happened to suggest that it will continue.
Ron Paul: Loved the focus on questions of national debt, the Constitution and an overreaching federal government.
Fred Thompson: Provided a highlight of the ho-hum debate by slapping down the debate moderator, refusing to raise his hand or answer a yes-or-no question. Guess he can kiss that Des Moines Register endorsement goodbye …
At least he agrees the format was awful, but honestly, how in the world can his take on the winners and losers be so off?
Oh, I should mention at least one reaction to the debate format, as well as the host, was positive. Moderator wins Iowa GOP debate:
Well, much to my surprise, I made it through the whole thing and found the format if not perfect, at least far improved from the circus atmosphere that usually has me reaching for the clicker. Since it’s customary to do so, I’m declaring the winner to be Carolyn Washburn who did a great job on the moderation. She was unobtrusive, but asked good serious questions and kept the time hoggers gently but firmly in line.
To the extent that any of them ‘won’, I’d say Huckabee came off as the most confident, no doubt due to his rising poll numbers and Ron Paul came off as sane and serious, rather than shrill, probably because he was treated with more respect by Washburn than is customary at these events and he wasn’t forced to compete for face time. This was a good format for him.
This was a good format period. It’s not that it was all that much more informative. Politicians being what they are, ignore the questions to make their preferred talking points and I imagine many will find it boring without the glitz. But for me, it beat the hell out of watching Chris Matthews preen for the cameras for the better part of two hours, while he decides who gets to talk.
I should note that comes from a blog that apparently just sees what righties are saying and immediately disagrees, but it’s interesting that there’s agreement with Rick Klein about who did the best in the debate.
Oh, I almost forgot! Watch the video of Charles Krauthammer at Hot Air. Excellent. “The worst debate in western history.”