Some reactions: Fred Thompson looked distracted, especially when answering questions about the economy. It was as if he were thinking of something else (his next movie or what he was going to order for dinner that night) and had to focus instead on some boring political question about social security or the disparity between the Dow and people's perception of the economy. Is he just rusty, or does he not really want to do this? Of the frontrunners, Romney had the clearest and most forthright answers. If you listen closely, you hear a moderate Republican beneath the rhetoric. Given the choice between the free market and the government fixing a problem, he instead choose the "American people." He was the only candidate (to my hearing) to use the words "global warming." Others may have mentioned "climate change," but that is the White House's preferred formulation. Giuliani is running for the Republican nomination by running against Hillary Clinton. If she doesn't get the nomination, and he does, he will be in the same pickle he was in 1989 when he ran against Ed Koch for mayor and David Dinkins upset Koch. But his Clinton-bashing plays well and disguises his own centrist inclinations on economic/social issues. He almost rescued himself on the line-item veto by invoking how he "beat" Bill Clinton by getting the Supreme Court to throw it out. Change a few Huckabee's substantive positions, and he would make a great Democratic candidate. He talks to and about middle America in a way that none of the other candidates do, but I think he'll remain a second tier candidate. Ron Paul is truly wonderful. He has all the right answers, but his reasons sometimes recall the 19th century musings of Coin Harvey.
--John B. Judis