The recent Republican presidential debate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was held just weeks before the Iowa presidential caucus and was decidedly livelier than previous exchanges. In past Republican events the focus has been upon presumptive Democratic nominee Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Now that Senator Clinton is no longer certain to be the Democratic nominee, there was only one mention of her – former Governor Michael D. (Mike) Huckabee, of Arkansas, suggested that if the United States were to have manned space travel to Mars Senator Clinton may be the first passenger.
At times this debate looked like a two-man affair. From the first question, former Governor Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani berated each other on the issue of immigration. Romney accused Giuliani of welcoming illegal immigrants when he was Mayor. Giuliani accused Romney of having had illegal immigrants paint the Governor’s Mansion. Romney denied this and asked if Giuliani, upon hearing an unfamiliar accent, would demand to see the person’s immigration papers. Giuliani did not reply but claimed that Romney had deputized Massachusetts State Police to handle immigration only two weeks before leaving office. Romney said it was seven months, not two weeks. So it went.
Second-tier candidates did unusually well. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), in reply to a questioner who wanted assurances that manned space travel would continue, said that is wrong with federal spending – everyone wants to cut spending while expanding his or her own pet programs. Representative Duncan L. Hunter (R-CA) related how he secured funding for the fence at the border between San Diego and Mexico. The fence, he said, had drastically reduced crime. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) elaborated upon his policy of bringing American troops home from Iraq. Ordinarily I would be sympathetic to Paul but Senator John S. McCain III (R-AZ) got the best of Paul by telling him the message troops gave him for Paul over the Thanksgiving weekend: “Let us win.” These are extraordinary times. The troops should be heard.