You could tell by the well-worn road between Washington, D.C., and South Carolina that the presidential candidates are giving the Palmetto State a lot of lovin’. Not to be one-upped by Orangeburg’s recent eight-person Democratic circus a few weeks back, Columbia hosted a 10-man Republican debate last week.
While MSNBC went for generic questions and a failed attempt at light-speed responses, Fox took on the GOP event with pointed questions, an uncomfortably loud dinner bell, two commercial breaks, and profiles of each candidate that highlighted religion before family and political experience. The candidates were John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Jim Gilmore. Last week, Democrats announced that the good times will come to Charleston on July 23 for another Democratic debate. Until then, here’s a recap of the best of the Republican round.
McCain’s Terrorist Fear: “If we fail in Iraq … they’ll follow us home.”
Giuliani’s Terrorist Reality: “These people do want to follow us here and they have followed us here.”
(Not Fred) Thompson’s Big Moment: “It’s time for the al-Maliki (Iraqis) to vote whether or not they want us in the fifth year to stay in their country or whether or not they want us to go home.”
Brownback’s Bipartisanship: “It’s difficult for democracy and particularly for the United States, for us to win with one party for the war and one party against the war.”
Tancredo’s Dose of Hard Truth: “We’re going to be in Iraq or at least in the region for a long time.”
Paul’s Dose of Hard Truth: “You have to realize that the base of the Republican Party shrunk last year because of the war issue.”
Hunter Gets a Little Too Honest: “I served in uniform in Vietnam — didn’t do anything special, but I served.”
Huckabee’s Big Moment: “There’s an old saying in the South … ‘It takes more money to do it over than it does to do it right.’ We’re now seeing that in the United States. We’re doing a lot of things over. Maybe we should have just done it right.”
Taxes and Spending
Romney’s ‘Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One’: “Instead of just talking about the same old same old, let’s streamline and make Washington more efficient.”
McCain’s Big Laugh: “We (Congress) spent money like a drunken sailor … I received an e-mail not long ago from a fellow who said, ‘As a former drunken sailor, I resent the way that (we) continue being compared to members of Congress.'”
Huckabee’s Big Laugh: “We’ve had a Congress that’s spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.”
Giuliani’s Tax Talk: “I lowered taxes 23 times.”
(Again, not Fred) Thompson on How He Can’t Get Along With Anybody: “I’m the only candidate up here that has over 1,900 vetoes.”
Paul’s Big Moment: “Tax reform should come, but spending cuts have to come by changing our attitude about what government ought to be doing for us. … I don’t think the Republican position ought to be more bureaucracy.”
Gilmore’s Not-So-Name Game: “We’ve got one candidate who …,” “We’ve got another candidate who …,” and “We have another candidate who.”
Moderator Asks Paul What the Hell He’s Doing There: “You say we should pull out our troops. … Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party?
Gilmore Knows the Fox Audience: “I think that the people in the audience and the people at home believe that conservatism is best.”
Moderator Takes on Giuliani: “You’re pro-choice, you’re pro-gay rights, you’re pro-gun control; you supported Mario Cuomo for governor over a Republican. Are those the stands of a conservative?
Giuliani Suggests It’s Him or Nobody in ’08: “Republicans should be uniting to make certain that what the liberal media is talking about, our inevitable defeat, doesn’t happen.”
Moderator Gets Snarky: “Mayor Giuliani, I’m going to give you another 30 seconds to actually answer my question.”
McCain Makes Sense: “We need to act on issues that affect America that are in the nation’s interests, that we should work on together, as they used to in the past when I first came to Congress. I promise you, I will reach across the aisle.”
Huckabee’s Folksy Record: “I think that’s a pretty doggone good record.”
Romney’s Failed Joke: “You’ve heard of blue states. If you ever bought a suit and you look at it and you can’t tell if it’s blue or black, that’s how blue Massachusetts is.” Bump. Bump. Is this thing on?
Giuliani Makes Sense: “There are people, millions and millions of Americans, who are of as good conscience as we are, who make a different choice about abortion.”
Huckabee Ain’t Buying: “If it’s wrong, then we ought to be opposed to it, and we ought to find better ways to deal with our respect for human life.”
Tancredo’s Big Laugh: “I get the hint here there’s conversions happening … conversions on guns, conversions on abortion, conversions on immigration. … I trust those conversions when they happen on the road to Damascus and not on the road to Des Moines.”
A Second Moderator Asks Paul What the Hell He’s Doing There: “Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?”
(Still not Fred) Thompson’s ‘Did You Know This About My State?’: “Embryonic stem cells were started at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.”
Tancredo Obviously Hasn’t Seen An Inconvenient Truth: “I don’t know whether or not we are responsible, we the human race, are responsible for global warming.”
Paul’s Easy Pitch: “They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.”
Giuliani’s Home Run: “That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited that attack because we were attacking Iraq — I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.”
Fox News Plugs 24: “The questions in this round will be premised on a fictional, but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it.”
McCain Against Torture: “The use of torture — we could never gain as much from that torture as we lose in world opinion.”
Giuliani For Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: “I’ve seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this, and I don’t want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or anyplace else.”
Tancredo Obviously Has Seen 24: “I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you.”
Romney’s Ready to Play Sim City: Cuba: “Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.”
Gilmore’s ‘Did You Know This About My State?’: “The Pentagon was in fact struck; it’s in Arlington, Va.”
Nations We May Soon Invade: Turkey (if the border is destabilized), Saudi Arabia (if Iran gets nuclear weapons), a fictional West African country (if it supports a hypothetical terrorist attack in the U.S.), and China (if it looks at us the wrong way).
Tancredo’s Big Moment: “This issue of immigration is one of the most serious public policy issues we face. And if we pursue this path toward amnesty, it’s a disaster for the country.”
Giuliani’s Big Laugh: “I’d like to thank Congressman Tancredo for saying that I’m soft on anything.”
McCain’s ‘Did You Know This About My State?’: “Over half of the illegal crossings come across the Arizona-Sonora border.”
Romney Swipes at McCain: “My fear is that McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that’s bad.”
McCain Punches Romney: “I’ve kept a consistent position on campaign finance reform. … I have kept a consistent position on right to life. And I haven’t changed my position even on even-numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for.”
Giuliani on Immigration: “We need a fence. We need a technological fence. We need tamper-proof ID cards. And we need a way that people who are working in this country can come forward, sign up for the tamper-proof ID card, get in the database and start paying their way.”
Hunter’s Big Moment: “I built the border fence in San Diego. … This 2,000-mile porous border, incidentally, is our biggest homeland security problem.”
Odds and Ends
Number of Times “Conservative” is Uttered: 17
Number of Times Ronald Reagan is Mentioned: 10
Number of Times God is Mentioned: 3
Romney’s Big Words: Precipitously, Immersion.
(One more time, not Fred) Thompson’s Big Word: Pluripotency.
Hunter’s Name for Industry: “The arsenal of democracy.”
Gilmore’s Name for the Frontrunners: “Rudy McRomney”
Huckabee’s Next Big Laugh: “I wish my name would get in the moniker that Gov. Gilmore is putting out there. I could use the bump.”
Hunter’s Unintentional Big Laugh: “One of us is going to be commander in chief in a few months.”
To Recap the Night: Giuliani wins on security, McCain wins on bipartisanship, any Democrat wins on Iraq, and Romney wins on …
Brit Hume’s Dose of Hard Truth: “There’ll be many more debates (insert groan here), but that is it for us tonight.”
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