McCain's strong criticism of a "badly mismanaged" war gave him the edge in my book. McCain was easily the strongest on spending.... He also forthrightly supported evolution which puts him in the ranks of sane Republicans.... I have to say I found Romney smarmy beyond even my expectations. The man will obviously say and do anything to get power or please a crowd.... Giuliani is simply not a very impressive speaker or debater...Power Line:
Frankly, I think John McCain had the best night. He seemed a bit nervous at first, but soon found his stride. He managed more ably than his chief rivals, McCain [sic] and Romney, to give answers that will appeal to a reasonably full spectrum of Republican voters without seeming to pander to anyone.Redstate:
John McCain won. Let's not dance around this. Mitt Romney shined, he stood out, he did well. Rudy Giuliani imploded. Rudy totally and utterly self-destructed tonight. He had many chances to get in good with the core base of Republican voters and ignored every moment.What's really going on here? Looks like people really want to destroy Giuliani. Power Line even blots out his name.
But McCain cuisine reigned supreme. He served up a dish of anger, a willingness to criticize, and a desire to fight — hard.
I thought McCain was fine. You could see he was trying very hard and seemed to have a lot of memorized lines. He had a forced tough-guy style of speaking. But I thought it was clear that Romney was the one who excelled. Was I a sucker for "smarmy"? Or did Andrew Sullivan just already hate Romney?
ADDED: Jonah Goldberg:
McCain sent the signal he's all nerve, raw, exposed, slightly crazy nerve. The "gates of Hell" line, for example, was brilliant, if not brilliantly delivered. He's going to be a mad dog — for you.Okaaay.
Meanwhile, Giuliani seems to have forgotten why he's the front runner. Optimism is nice, hooray for cheeriness. But what the base wants to here is proof that he's going to be the "tough S.O.B. — for us." He didn't even come close to doing that. Meanwhile, McCain went almost too far in that direction last night. But too far in this situation is a lot better than not far enough.
MORE: I should say that Power Line quote above is from Paul Mirengoff and that Power Line's John Hinderaker adds (to the same post):
... I thought Romney did best by a pretty wide margin. Giuliani did OK question by question, I thought, but didn't present as coherent a whole. McCain seemed surprisingly ill at ease, especially early on, and while I liked most of what he had to say, I don't think he was as effective as usual.