Debate Thoughts

Is Ron Paul related to Ian McKellen? Why are we giving men running for the highest office in the land thirty seconds to answer serious questions? Is Sam Brownback running for preacher? Why did John McCain crack a weird grin right after promising to follow Osama to the "gates of hell"? Is there anything more painful than watching Rudy Giuliani talk about abortion? Is there anything more painful than watching Tom Tancredo talk?

Mitt Romney was the winner by default, I thought, since the other major candidates didn't distinguish themselves, and none of the minor candidates made an outsize impression. (Though how you would make an impression in that kind of ridiculous, overcrowded forum I have no idea.) McCain didn't hurt himself but didn't really help himself either, and every time I hear him talk I'm reminded of what a surprisingly weak public speaker he is. I was more impressed by Giuliani than Ryan Sager was, but that isn't saying much; he seemed more Presidential than most of the other folks on stage, but he didn't make much of a case for himself as a conservative. Among the also-rans, Hunter and Huckabee did best. It's too bad being one of the best governors of the last twenty years doesn't make Tommy Thompson a more plausible would-be President. If you read Paul's remarks in a transcript, he sounds reasonable; if you watched him, he sounds like your nutty uncle.

Overall - and I hope this doesn't make Daniel Larison's head explode - watching the debate made me raise my estimate of Mitt Romney's chances at the nomination. I certainly agree that he comes across as overpolished and a bit "like a well-cast actor in a movie of the week about a guy running for president," as Jonah put it. But in a field where most of his opponents look like badly-cast actors, that actually may give him a leg up.

Speaking of well-cast actors, I revised my estimation of Fred Thompson's chances upward as well.

Mickey Kaus gets the best line: "Is Sarkozy unavailable?"