I have to be honest. I was debating writing about this debate. I thought the latest Republican presidential primary debate taking place in Durham, NH on the campus of the University of New Hampshire was primed to be another snooze fest collection of stump speech greatest hits sound bytes that most of these gatherings have descended into, and while this event did have it’s share of repetition, it also featured a few stellar moments that are worth talking about.

The debate was sponsored and televised by Fox News which means that there were a few givens at work here. First, Ron Paul is the devil. He will be given questions that will paint him as a kook and in the worst light possible. Second, there will be a stupid hypothetical question that will sound like an episode of 24. Third, the frontrunners are going to suck up almost all the airtime.

Much of the early part of this debate was spent on the topics of Fred Thompson, immigration, and Larry Craig. Some of the candidates got shots in on Fred Thompson for no showing the debate. Mike Huckabee said, “I was scheduled to be on Jay Leno but I gave up my slot for somebody else because I’d rather be in New Hampshire with these fine people.”

John McCain quipped, “Maybe we’re up past his bedtime…” Mitt Romney made a joke that had a little bit of truth in it, “Why the hurry? Why not take some more time off?” Rudy Giuliani went the route of the humorous dig, “I think he has done a pretty good job of playing my part on Law & Order. I prefer the real thing.” On the issue of immigration, Giuliani and Romney continued their feud, as Romney tried to paint Giuliani as a friend of the illegal immigrant and a man who won’t protect the border. For his part, Giuliani was correctly blaming the feds for not enforcing the law.

On the topic of Larry Craig the candidates stopped just short of saying, you’re killing us!!! Please resign already. Sam Brownback, who waited 25 minutes to get a question, and Duncan Hunter were the only ones asked about Craig. “I’d say on his second thoughts, he’s already pulled that trigger,” Brownback said. Hunter said that Craig should stick to his original plan, as Fox News quickly moved on. On the topic of whether or not the troop surge is working, McCain was the only one who said that it definitely was. “It is working,” McCain said. “Not apparently.” McCain also said that Giuliani was not experienced enough to lead the country. For his part, Giuliani confirmed McCain’s also ran status by saying that if he weren’t running, he would support McCain. We all know that Giuliani wouldn’t say this if the thought for a second that McCain has any chance of beating him.

Forty minutes into the debate was when Ron Paul was asked a second question, and because this is Fox, the question misquotes him about 9/11 and guns in order to make him look crazy. In defense of the network, Dr. Paul hasn’t always been clear on this topic, but Fox really did a hack job on him. Mike Huckabee got lots of airtime. He endeared himself to the Republican mainstream by picking a fight with Ron Paul about Paul’s idea that the U.S. doesn’t belong in Iraq, and should leave right away.

This exchange occurred about 2/3 of the way through the debate. After Paul gave his reasoning for leaving Iraq, Huckabee said, “We have to continue the surge. What we did in Iraq is we essentially broke it. It’s our responsibility to try and fix it.” Paul said that the American people didn’t screw up Iraq, Bush and Co. did, which allowed Huckabee to wave the flag. “If we make a mistake, we make it as one country” Paul tried to warn his fellow Republicans that they are going down the tubes, and Huckabee made one of the most politically idiotic statements ever. “Even if we lose elections we should not lose our honor and that is more important than the Republican Party.”

So in essence, the GOP is saying that honor and saving face is worth putting Hillary Clinton in the White House for eight years. This attitude is why Ron Paul has no chance, and the GOP is going down in flames. The people who support this war really are sticking by it out of pride and a desire to save face. They would rather trash their party’s future, than do what most Americans want them to do, ugh.

The best questions of the night easily came from the voters who were allowed to ask questions to the candidates from a local diner/restaurant. Mitt Romney danced around a question from a dad whose son is Iraq. Dad said that he was offended that Romney would equate his sons campaigning for him with the soldiers in Iraq. Romney blew it saying that his remarks were inappropriate, but not directly apologizing. Giuliani was asked about family values and his family situation, and he didn’t win much support by refusing to talk about his private life. “I am not running as a perfect candidate for president of the United States. I’m running as a human being who has been very successful as a leader,” he said. “So obviously, any issues in my private life do not affect my public performance.”
Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, and Tom Tancredo were barely heard from. Hunter was allowed to talk about his border fence and Craig. Tancredo got questions about immigration, and leaving Iraq. All in all this was the sort of unbalanced debate, that I have come to expect from Fox News.

Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain got most of the attention. Ron Paul was the bad guy, and the other three candidates were ignored. What was interesting about the structure of this debate was that Giuliani’s weaknesses were stayed away from. There was no discussion about abortion, and very little about guns. My list of winners includes Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain. Losers are Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo.

To read more about who I thought the winners/losers were, check out the full article right here.

Jason Easley is the editor of the Politics Zone at www.411mania.com/politics His column The Political Universe appears on 411 every Tuesday and Friday.

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