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The CNN/YouTube Republican Debate
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Overall I thought it was pretty awful. Not the questions, necessarily. CNN chose too many repetitive questions on economic matters and not enough on foreign policy, but on the whole the questions were good in trying to pin down the candidates on particular issues, though they tried (often painfully) to weasel out without offending some large interest group like blacks or old people.

I hadn't really seen some of these guys in action, and I was kind of shocked at just how awful Mitt Romney was. When asked whether he believed every word of the bible to be literally true, he hemmed and hawed for a bit before furrowing his brow and saying "Uh...sure I do." His answer on waterboarding was reprehensible. He basically said he wouldn't support torture, but said "he didn't think it was appropriate for someone running for President to talk about specific techniques". But he said he thought Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "got exactly what he deserved", and it's been relatively well-acknowledged that he was waterboarded. Romney just came across as a double-speaking weasel.

McCain gave decent answers, but he seemed like he was drugged up or something. He came across as completely humorless and unlikeable, and based on that performance I can't see how he'd have a chance.

Fred Thompson was okay, but comparisons with Reagan are way off target. He has about 1/4 the charisma Reagan displayed, and I don't see him getting a viable shot either.

Guiliani did all right as well, and he generally expressed very moderate positions clearly, which at times brought jeers from the audience. He also gave a few roundabout responses, but for the most part I thought it was a reasonably solid performance, but not great.

Surprisingly, Mike Huckabee seemed to handle himself the best in the debate, answering questions emphatically and actually appearing to have a pulse. He's apparently taken the lead in the Iowa caucus race, but it's within the margin of error. I could never vote for him because he's probably the most unabashedly religious candidates and because he supports a National Sales Tax (which just doesn't make sense to me), but I'll admit he did well in the debate.

Ron Paul's first question had to do with whether or not he really believed there was a conspiracy to fuse the US, Canada, and Mexico into a single country and apparently he seemed to admit it. How people can continue to give so much money to someone so obviously kooky, I don't quite get.

Tancredo and Hunter were the bookends. Hunter came across better than Tancredo (who seems like a classic one-issue candidate), but both were marginalized not just figuratively, but literally, by the debate format. They did the same crap in the Democratic debate. If they're going to put all these people on the stage together, they really ought to randomize their position on stage, the order in which they get questions, and keep a clock to ensure equal time for everyone. I'd rather they either made it fair or just excluded the marginal candidates.

All in all, I'm starting to get flashbacks. I can't get excited about any of the candidates I've seen, on either side. Right now Guiliani seems like the most attractive candidate, although that's not saying much. I really don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I might actually find myself doing that. It may come down to the one-on-one debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

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