The first question is Reagan's question: Are you better off than you were 4 (or 8) years ago? Mitt reframes the question, because he's not running on Bush's record, as a boast about his stint as governor of Massachusetts. Anderson Cooper interrupts to inform him that he's not answering the question asked, and Mitt tells him to shut up — in so many words — and keeps talking about Massachusetts.
On the second question, John McCain taunts Romney about how the Boston newspapers endorsed McCain. He calls Mitt "my friend" and laughs and says he guarantees that the Arizona newspapers are going to endorse him. He's relaxed and happy and keeps inserting wisecracks.
ADDED: Asked about Reagan's choice of Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court, they all acted like they were respecting her (and Reagan), but proceeded to disrespect her. Only Paul admits he wouldn't have picked her. Huckabee says he's not stupid enough to sit in the Reagan Library and say he disagrees with Reagan and launches into a pro-life soliloquy. Ron Paul says he'd have picked a "much stronger constitutionalist." McCain says he's "proud" of O'Connor as a "fellow Arizonan," but he wants judges like Roberts and Alito who have a "proven record of strict interpretation." Romney says he wants judges like Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas that "follow the Constitution and do not make law from the bench."
MORE: McCain and Romney really went at it over the Iraq "timetables" issue, and McCain garbled his words many times — such as calling April a "year" — and I think this evidenced great tension. Romney's self-defence got cheers. McCain kept asserting that the quote meant what it clearly didn't mean. Saying that we don't want al Qaeda waiting "in the weeds" until we leave means that we should never announce a timetable. McCain claimed to read it as a plan to leave on a timetable.
It's possible that Romney is such a fence-straddler that he threw the word "timetables" out so people would pick up the signal that he wants to leave, but he embedded it in a sentence so slippery that he'd never have to own up to any meaning he didn't like. McCain acts sure that he knows the "buzzwords" and he sees how politicians use them, and someone truly devoted to sticking it out in Iraq would never have uttered the buzzword "timetables."
Anderson Cooper presses Romney: Why did you refuse to take a position on the surge on the ground that you're a governor, when 2 months later, you declared your candidacy? The impression one gets is that he was carefully crafting his position to run for President. So he preserved his ability to go either way on the war. He accuses McCain of throwing mud. And McCain just smiles and assures us he knows what politicians are doing with language.
FINALLY: I think Huckabee was very appealing and modest. I liked in the end when, unlike the others, he declined to say that Ronald Reagan would endorse him. It would be "arrogant" to say that, so he just wants to say that he endorses Ronald Reagan. (But wait a minute. Isn't it actually arrogant to say it would be arrogant to say what the others just said? He's a crafty one too, that Huckabee.) Ron Paul is whatever he already is to you. McCain and Romney each helped and hurt themselves. There is so much at stake for them. They had to fight, and some of it looked pretty ugly. Yet they made their points. I think Romney established that McCain had been too hard on him about the "timetables" remark and that he's creative and capable on economic issues. But McCain is clearly the one with the rock-solid record on the war. He staked his reputation on it when Romney was being cagey.