It was moderated by Chris Matthews with some questions coming from viewers online. It took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, so there was a lot of mentioning of Ronald Reagan.
In case you're not familiar with all the candidates, they are:
- Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas
- Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia
- Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City
- Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas
- Congressman Duncan Hunter of California
- Senator John McCain of Arizona
- Congressman Ron Paul of Texas
- Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
- Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado
- Former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin
In my answer tallies below, I skipped certain questions such as one toward Mitt Romney, "What do you hate most about America?" as well as questions speficially about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. I also skipped a few Yes/No questions or show-of-hands questions such as, "Do you believe in evolution," as well as just plain stupid questions like, "Do you believe it would be a good thing to have Bill Clinton back in the White House?".
Many of McCain's answers seem oddly "speechified". Throughout the debate, Tancredo seems nervous or just ineloquent.
Thompson believes that:
1. Iraq should be allowed to vote on whether they want us there or not. If "Yes" our presence is legitimized; if "No" we get out.
2. Iraq's 18 territories should be treated like our 50 states, each one with locally elected regional governments.
3. Split oil reserves: one third for federal governmnet; one third for state governments; one third for "every man, woman, and child" (for investing).
Ron Paul says the war should not have been used for political gain, to enforce UN sanctions, or to pretend that the Iraqis were a threat to us. He believes that the U.S. should have a non-intervention foreign policy that is more traditionally conservative and Republican. He believes if we wanted to go to war, Congress should have voted to officially declare war.
When asked whether he'd feel comfortable with Tom Tancreo in charge of immigration, McCain said, "In a word, no," and then immediately went on to address a previous question about terroists with an answer that felt overly practiced, that included a reference to following Bin Laden to the gates of hell, and that was concluded with a creepy grin.
Each candidate is asked if he'd be willing to change the Constitution such that non-US born citizens, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar could be president. Most say no, and those that say yes seem to be joking. The best answer comes from Mike Huckabee who says, "After I've served eight years as President, I'd be happy to change the constitution for Gov. Schwarzeneggar." McCain says, "It depends on whether he endorses me or not."
When Mike Huckabee was asked if he believed in global warming, he talked about how much we have a responsibility to be "good stewards" of the earth and leave it in as good a shape or better than we found it. It was an eloquent answer that fit perfectly within the 30 seconds allotted, and I would have counted this as an excellent answer rather than just good if he had been more specific on how to take to care of the environment.
When asked if he is a compassion conservative like Bush, Duncan Hunter also gave a one word answer, and then gave his opinion about Iraq.
When asked if he would plan on phasing out the IRS, Ron Paul said, "Immediately," and elaborated on how it is not government's role to police the world or protect people cradle to grave.
When asked if abortion within first eight weeks of pregancy is okay, Jim Gilmore said he believed it to be okay but that there should be several provisions such as 24-hour waiting period, parental consent for minors, partial-birth ban, etc. Tommy Thompson said that the states should be responsible for decisions on abortion. Romney said he is personally pro-life but upheld his state's pro-choice stance as law until he felt Roe v. Wade had gone too far when cloning was discussed. When asked about public funding for abortions, Giuliani said states should decide and was forced to admit that he supported it in New York.
When asked about which tax each candidate would like to cut, I especially like Duncan Hunter's answer. He says he would cut taxes on domestic manufacturing to help encourage the production of goods in the U.S. rather than importing at higher costs due to the free trade agreement. Ron Paul repeats that he would get rid of the IRS but also says that he would get rid of "inflation tax." He explains that when we spend way beyond our means, we print more money which lowers the value of the dollar, thus inflation. The answer is wiser spending.
When asked what mistake by a president he's learned not to make, Mike Huckabee says we should stop letting jobs get shifted overseas while CEOs get enormous bonuses.
Overall, most of the candidates had a decent number of good answers, but there were fair and poor answers sprinkled throughout. Tancredo was consistently unimpressive, having nothing but fair and poor answers. Much of that was bad delivery and bad timing (not ending his answers well within allotted time), but the content of his answers wasn't always decent either.
The only excellent answers were as follows:
- Mike Huckabee's answer to "Which mistakes have you learned not to repeat?"
- Mike Huckabee's answer to "How would you be different from George W Bush""
- Duncan Hunter's answer to "What tax would you like to cut?"
- Ron Paul's answer to "You voted against the war; why are the other wrong?"
- Ron Paul's answer to "Would you phase out the IRS?"
When scoring excellent answers 3 points, good answers 2 points, fair answers 1 point, and poor answers 0 points, my averages are as follows:
- [2.125] Mike Huckabee (based on 8 questions)
- [1.900] Tommy Thompson (based on 10 questions)
- [1.800] Sam Brownback (based on 10 questions)
- [1.780] Ron Paul (based on 9 questions)
- [1.769] Mitt Romney (based on 13 questions)
- [1.714] Jim Gilmore (based on 7 questions)
- [1.556] Duncan Hunter (based on 9 questions)
- [1.500] Rudy Giuliani (based on 12 questions)
- [1.429] John McCain (based on 14 questions)
- [0.556] Tom Tancredo (based on 9 questions)
These results kind of surprise me. I like at least certain aspects of almost all the candidates. I like Huckabee's way of thinking, and yet I'm not sure I get a complete sense of his plans and policies. His answers to questions, while sometimes idealistic and vague, were always eloquently delivered. That, and his overall likeability, sense of integrity, and lack of obvious flaws pushed him to the top in this debate.
I've seen Thompson be lackluster in one-on-one interviews, but he was really good in this debate. Sam Brownback seems nearly worthy of being a front-runner. I really like Ron Paul and his policies, but he's the most extreme of the candidates and sometimes comes off sounding less sensible--even when I agree with him. It's not that I don't like the front-runners of McCain, Giuliani, and Romney, but they tended to have their drawbacks exposed too much in this debate. Gilmore and Hunter should not be written off yet either.
Out of the ten, only Tancredo seems totally over his head.