WaPo writers declare McCain’s victory over rivals in Sunday’s Debate.
WaPo’s Dan Balz says that despite McCain and Giuliani’s reversal for the top spot in the primary field, McCain is still a force to be reckoned with. Says Balz:
“McCain can be a slow starter in these debates, but after warming up with an afternoon town hall meeting, he hit the stage running. His opening line was a zinger aimed at his nemesis, Romney, over who was the real conservative in the race.
‘Governor Romney, you've been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record," he said. "I don't want you to start fooling them about mine... I stand on my record of a conservative and I don't think you can fool the American people. I think the first thing you'd need is their respect.’
A few minutes later, he had the audience cheering and laughing at Hillary Clinton's expense, while reminding everyone that his public service includes six years as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. Blasting Clinton's proposal to spend $1 million in tax dollars for a memorial to the Woodstock rock concert, a "cultural and pharmaceutical event" that he said he could not attend because, "I was tied up."’
According to Balz:
“The last thing Giuliani needs now is a McCain on the rebound. He prefers a rising Mike Huckabee and an improving Fred Thompson to splinter further the most conservative wing of the party and thereby cut into Romney's potential support. That's just what appears to be happening.
The more those conservative voters are divided, the better for Giuliani. The danger for Giuliani from a revitalized McCain candidacy comes in New Hampshire. The Giuliani campaign sees New Hampshire as the best opportunity to derail Romney's early-state strategy, but he and McCain are competing there, especially for many of the same socially moderate voters. McCain's roots there are stronger than anywhere else, a byproduct of his big 2000 victory over Bush in the state.”
Chris Cillizza says in “The Fix”:
“The first 30 minutes of the debate provided some of the best moments of the campaign so far, with John McCain accusing Mitt Romney of seeking to fool the American people about his record, and Fred Thompson challenging Rudy Giuliani over his public declaration that he voted for Democrat Mario Cuomo in New York's 1994 gubernatorial race.”
Cillizza declares McCain the winner:
“McCain won the debate with a single line. Talking about the fact he wasn't able to attend the Woodstock rock festival back in 1969, McCain said: "I was tied up at the time." Wow. A subtle reference to his time as a POW in the "Hanoi Hilton" that the crowd slowly but surely caught on to and eventually rewarded McCain with an extended standing ovation. McCain also nicely balanced seriousness (his unwillingness to gratuitously attack Hillary Rodham Clinton) with his trademark wit (poking fun at his advanced age in a question on Social Security). It felt like McCain was at the center of the debate last night.”
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