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This one’s been enjoyable and productive. The moderator (Caroline Washburn) did a good enough job — stern, not too stern, on point, not too pointy, enforced the Q&A time and panel behaviors very well. The moderator even concluded the debate with “Happy Holidays.”

But I’m listening to the predictably randy Fred Barnes on FOX News as I write this, as he criticizes “the moderator” (“she put on a Nurse Ratchet act”) — Barnes says she “didn’t allow the candidates to criticize each other” — and to the contrary, I didn’t perceive the moderator as being responsible for that, so much as the candidates appeared to be demonstratively attempting to avoid doing that, with the exception of Alan Keyes — why was he there? — and tendencies in that regard as reflected in a few of Huckabee’s comments.

Keyes was disruptive and nearly offensive in delivery (which seems to be his general speaking personna — though what he had to say when he made any points was supportable), while Huckabee was disappointing and vague (as in, not focused well on a myriad of issues and relying a little too much on his appearance as adequate for the occasion – but he is likable, no doubt about that) except in Huckabee’s desire that the U.S. engage a good “preventative medicine” policy as to healthcare. Generally, Huckabee was withered, McCain was remote, Tancredo continued on his ongoing mission to secure the borders and enforce our immigration laws (and to pare away the Department of Education, which is a popular goal among Conservatives), Hunter looked gruff but persisted pleasantly in advancement of his ongoing missions — to secure our borders and continue his dedication to national security and our military defense — and Fred Thompson was more appealing than I’ve seen him in previous debates. Ron Paul was predictably screechy with all his responses with the exception of his gleeful smiling remarks about how “delightful” the internet is.

Very good “live blogging” coverage by Jonathan Martin on POLITICO, who has written (already, by this debate conclusion time now) most of the salient, performance issues. FOX is currently covering the specific statements as to popularity appeal and politics.

708654icon-gop.gif But Mitt Romney clearly stood out above all the rest, was poised, clear, calm, likeable and articulate. And I write this not because I favor Romney from all the rest, but because Romney made a very good presentation this afternoon as to his positions and perspectives on education, healthcare, abortion, his regard and sincere respect for the American population, his commitment to secure our borders and “end illegal immigration,” taxes and much more (and to Huckabee’s and Giuliani’s credit, they both, too, spoke well about reorganizing our tax system, but Giuliani’s an advocate of the “flat tax” while Huckabee favors the “fair tax”). As also, as already said, Fred Thompson was commendably straightforward and appealing and stood out like the brave guy that he’s suspected of being right there under that surface of poise – when he speaks about taxes (as he did, also, in this debate), he does connect and I get the impression that he knows some of his fiscal solutions aren’t popular but that they are practical and would enable real solutions (thus, he’s right as are his ideas but they aren’t popular nor easily understood when pressed down into three-minute comments — a case of faith in the man in this case is required).

My pick from tonight: Romney and Thompson.

Related, of interest:

National Review Online endorses Romney for President

…and I agree with them and why they do.

C O M M E N T S : now closed