Final Thoughts

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 30, 2008 10:13 PM
Listen, I complained a lot about McCain tonight, and didn't mean to jump on the super-anti-McCain bandwagon. I have serious problems with him, but I'm more inclined to support him than probably a lot of conservative bloggers are, since I can see accepting his expertise on the war and his ability to beat Hillary or Obama as a trade-off given the alternative. Maybe. But such is the magic of John McCain that it's as if he went into the debate looking to tick people off.

But whatever. He was strong on the war, as usual. He's fair in taking Romney to task for not taking a position on the surge sooner, but he's not fair in using the "timetables" quote against him, and that little bit of overreach dominated the conversation. Instead of asserting his own expertise and the fact that he was right three years ago, McCain went for a defense of an obviously wrong attack on Romney, thus weakening the very strong argument for himself. Silly and unnecessarily antagonistic. "Weak sauce," as the kids say.

Anyway, my review of his performance is likely colored, but he looked strong and maybe a bit on the combative side. But feisty works for him lots of the time. What do you guys think? He wasn't as funny as he usually is. A little good humor helps him look less acidic, usually.

Romney, I thought, was very good but still not electric enough to electrify people. He should have laid into Johnny Mac pretty hard a few good times and he would have had the base-conservative masses at his feet. He looked very sharp tonight, sounded very good on economic issues-- entitlements and the follies of "cap-and-trade" particularly. But still, missing a bit of something.

I thought his answer on Peggy Noonan's assertion that Bush ruined the party hit all the right notes and was more far-reaching and-- dare I say, Huckabeean, than usual-- in its ability to praise Bush in the right spots while taking the government to task where necessary.

I would have liked to hear more bare-bones fiscal conservatism on the mortgage crisis and the economic stimulus plan. Reagan would have been proud of that. Cheers to Mitt and Paul for actually answering the question about Sandra Day O'Connor while at the Reagan Library.

For the most part, I think we're in the same spot we were before. No huge defining moment for Mitt, though he did well, and McCain will be wrestling the same problems with conservatives tomorrow, but with the momentum wind at his back.