Here are my initial post-debate thoughts ...
Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney both did well, but they always do well. Mike Huckabee is still the best debater, but there's nothing new there.
I think Fred Thompson did quite well. Once again, he ended strong. People tend to remember the first thing and the last thing they see, and if this is true, Fred Thompson had a very good night.
Tonight, John McCain "the Statesman" showed up. He was energetic enough to show his virility, yet calm enough to demonstrate gravitas. He did a terrific job of balancing humor with seriousness, and his classy brand of humor served to underscore his serious points.
A few months ago his campaign seemed to be starring at the abyss. Tonight, John McCain may take solace in Winston Churchill words (about the ability to speak) that: “Abandoned by his party, betrayed by his friends, stripped of his offices, whoever can command this power is still formidable.” McCain may not have as much money as some of the other frontrunners, but this debate demonstrates he is still, indeed, formidable.
9:30 - Finishing strongly, Fred Thompson's biography seems to refute charges that he is lazy: "If a man can do all that and be lazy, I recommend it to everybody."
9:21 - This seems to be the opposite of the last debate, in the sense that tonight Fred Thompson started strong and (unless he turns it around in the next 9 minutes), he seems to be finishing slow ...
9:16 - John McCain on whether or not Bush misjudged Putin: I don't know about naive, but I do know when I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes, I saw three letters: KGB.
9:08 - Who is winning??? It's always hard to pick a winner when there are 8 or 9 people in a debate.
9:02 - BoSox up 2 to 0
8:55 - Steelers and Broncos are tied at 7.
8:50 - Chris Wallace points out that John McCain is running closest to Hillary Clinton. McCain hasn't gotten the credit for this that he deserves, and he should be happy Wallace has helped spread the word. Regarding Woodstock, and Hillary Clinton's wanting to build a Woodstock Museum, McCain says: "I was tied up at the time."
8:49 - Rudy quotes Hillary: "I have a million ideas; America can't afford them all." Referring to Al Gore, he says: "Thank you Florida."
8:47 - Mitt Romney on why his business background is important, and why Hillary Clinton isn't ready for the job: "... She hasn't run a corner store. She hasn't run a state. She hasn't run a city. She hasn't run anything."
8:43 - Red Sox 1 / Cleveland 0
8:41 - When pressed about teachers not liking him, Rudy has a great line about how he cares about teachers, but he cares about the kids more.
8:40 - Pittsburgh 7 / Denver 0
8:36 - Mike Huckabee has a good line, saying, "... when all the old hippies find out they get free drugs, just wait to see what that's going to cost ..."
8:34 - Duncan Hunter hits Romney on the mandates in his health care plan.
8:29 - Cleveland 0 / Boston 0 -- Denver 0 / Pittsburgh 0
8:25 - It feels like John McCain is "on" tonight.
8:22 - Mike Huckabee is, indeed, a skilled debater. I think that he scored some points when he refused to attack the other candidates. It may be that McCain now needs to attack Romney -- or that Thompson now needs to attack Rudy. But I don't think Huckabee gains anything by going on the attack and becoming a "politician."
Chris Wallace seems committed to making this debate newsworthy. The questions, so far, have challenged the candidates to draw sharp distinctions between themselves and their opponents.
Kudos to Fred Thompson for coming out swinging tonight. He wasted no time mixing it up with Rudy Giuliani about abortion and sanctuary cities.
Rudy responded by saying Fred's not perfect, either: "Fred was the single biggest obstacle to tort reform in the U.S. Senate."
John McCain is coming on strong tonight, too. He seems to be finally making the case in a very eloquent way that his background qualifies him to be president.
Mitt Romney wisely clarified his comment during the last debate about consulting lawyers before a unilateral military action.