Let me preface this by saying that I live in New Hampshire and I will vote in Tuesday's primary.
I should also explain that I went into the debates thinking I would vote for either Hillary or Obama. I've always leaned toward the Republicans and am in fact a registered Republican, but I tend to vote on the issues, not with a party and eight years of Bush, the moralistic high horse the Republicans have been riding, and the gazillion dollars the Republicans spent to investigate Travelgate, Monicagate, and whatever else they investigated during the Bill Clinton years purely in the name of partisan politics have soured me on the Republicans. (And have had me soured on them for quite some time. I'm a registered Republican who did NOT vote for George W Bush in either election).
I watched the debates on television last night and I thought the exchange between John McCain and Mitt Romney was great. As a New Hampshire resident, I've thought for a couple of weeks that Romney's advertisements are so negative that I'll never vote for him. They say nothing about what he's for, they only say that John McCain hasn't done anything. I won't vote for a candidate who spends his time saying that other guys suck instead of saying what they've done.
If you missed it, here's the exchange. The words are quoted from some article about the debate because I didn't write this down.
McCain turned to Romney and said: "It's not amnesty. And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it won't be true."
"I don't describe your plan as amnesty in my ad," Romney, a multimillionaire, replied. "I don't call it amnesty." The former governor is running an ad in New Hampshire against McCain that includes the words, "He wrote the amnesty bill that America rejected."
And I'm sure that Romney is right in saying that because a "common citizen" said the words in the ad, Romney never actually said that, but the "I'm Mitt Romney and I approved this message" part means to me that his campaign is saying that about Amnesty.
Giuliani then pointed out that since Ronald Reagan, God of the Republican Party, gave illegal immigrants true amnesty in the 1980s, he would end up in a Romney attack ad. I thought that was a great line.
Minutes later, McCain responded to a separate Romney claim that he had been misquoted on illegal immigration by alluding to Romney's changes of position or nuance on several key issues, such as abortion rights. "When you change . . . positions on issues from time to time," McCain said, deadpan, "you will get misquoted."
Romney was clearly the most polished of the presenters, but I liked what he had to say the least. When he said to McCain that we shouldn't paint the pharmaceutical companies as bad guys it told me a LOT of what he's about. I really do feel strongly that the drug companies and the other PAC and lobby groups are a LOT of what is wrong with Washington Politics and that Romney doesn't believe that. If the attack ads hadn't convinced me, that statement alone would have sealed the deal for me that I will never vote for Mitt Romney for anything.
Ron Paul was described in one debate analysis as "rambling" and one account said "Paul at times dominated the debate, taking on all the candidates with his unorthodox views -- for a Republican -- on the war, which he argued has limited domestic achievements, and on capitalism.
"So," a droll Thompson said to Paul at one point, as if restating Paul's argument, "if we would stop printing so much money, we could get out of the war and provide healthcare to everybody."
I actually liked what Paul had to say and I agree with much of him. When we were talking about our dependence on foreign oil and he said it's foolish to talk about it in a vacuum I think he had the most intelligent point of the night. Politicians make platform statements as if we can fix item A then item B and item C, but there is so much interdependence of these issues it's insulting to our intelligence to tell us one can be fixed without the other.
Fred Thompson is clearly not very smart and hoping his actor gravitas will make us think otherwise. When the WMUR guy asked him about record profits for oil companies and he replied that he remembers when they didn't make money, he lost any chance of getting a vote out of me. I'm not in favor of a windfall profits tax because I agree that capitalism is a great business incentive and the tax code is complicated enough, but it's absolutely insane that out government's energy policy is giving millions of dollars to oil companies for research and development when they are making record profits. For Thompson to "quip" about that is insulting.
Huckabee did well, but I hate that he wants to push a moral agenda on America. Can we please just get a president who leads the country without Religion? Religious people and conservatives vote, and that's why we have to suffer through these candidates (or these Presidents, like George Bush) who bring an agenda based on their morality (or the morality his team of handlers and researchers feel will best sway those conservative voters- where were those conservative Christian values back in the day when Bush was a party animal?)
Giuliani drives me nuts because he's so clearly a crusader driven by his own ego, but his debate performance made me like him a little more than I had before.
So, based on last night's debate, if I were to vote for a Republican.
John McCain- probably the Republican I would have voted for before the debate, he improved my chances of voting for him.
Romney- His attack ads had me leery of him before the debate, his willingness to suck up to the drug companies and his crying about "personal attacks" to McCain when McCain was clearly attacking Romney's campaign, not his person, sealed the deal that I will NEVER vote for him.
Giuliani- Had little chance of getting my support before the debate, but I'll listen to his ideas now.
Thompson- his background as a lawyer turned actor had me leery of him, his debate performance consisted of being snarky and sucking up to big oil. No chance of getting my vote.
Ron Paul- his views on civil liberties, that the government really has no place in deciding what's right or wrong for me, and his realistic approach to the issues instead of the normal political rhetoric intrigue me. He was clearly the least polished and most nervous of the candidates. he is not presidential in his bearing (ok, he probably is presidential compared to Chester Arthur or Zachary Taylor or even Abraham Lincoln, but now that "Presidential" means "photogenic" that's not so), but he emerged from the debate as the Republican most likely to win my vote. After eight years of Bush I want a SMART president, not a photogenic one, my fear is that like Jimmy Carter, he's not politically savvy or corrupt enough to actually get his good ideas done in the cesspool of Washington politics.