The other candidates laid off of Romney tonight, and it really helped him -- he tends to do very poorly under attack. I tend to agree to an extent with Chuck Todd, who said after the debate on MSNBC that the candidates were restrained because this debate was their introduction to most Florida voters, unlike IA/NH/SC, where the candidates had campaigned so long the final debate was more like a closing argument. Still, I would have expected Guiliani and Huckabee to go after Mitt and McCain more than they did.
A few specific thoughts and observations:
--Huckabee was absolutely right that as recently as their Michigan debate, the other candidates were all sunny optimism about the economy. He should have made the point more effectively about them, though, by saying that a quick stimulus bill is no good if you're slow to realize it's needed. Instead, he turned it into a speech about listening to the working class, and then a strange proposal to use the stimulus money instead on building a highway from Bangor to Miami. I think Florida Republicans would prefer the rebate check.
--A point made by my wife: When John McCain brags about having been involved in economic and fiscal policy since the Reagan years, shouldn't someone turn to him and say, "Yeah, you were pretty closely involved with that Savings & Loan crisis, weren't you?"
--Romney (who, in case you weren't aware, thinks that Hillary Clinton is a she-devil) pooh-poohed McCain's 'bridge to nowhere' earmark reform for reining in spending, declaring that entitlement costs are where "the big dollars" are. Oh, please, please be specific about your big-dollar entitlement cuts, Governor Romney?
--Dear Mr. Russert: Thank you for getting all the major GOP Presidential candidate on the record saying that the Iraq War was worth the "cost in blood and treasure." And as a bonus, getting Huckabee to say he thinks there were WMD, hiding in the tall grass like undiscovered Easter eggs!
--Did Mitt Romney suggest that First Husband Bill Clinton would be chasing tail all over the White House? Or did I misinterpret that?
--Romney's self-financing did indeed come up tonight, asked by Russert. Romney not only refused to say how much of his own money he's spent, but seemed unnecessarily snooty about it. He'll report at the required deadline and not a moment sooner, he said, and he's not concerned with what the voters think. Russert all but accused him of trying to buy the Presidency. Romney pointed out that others have spent even more outrageous personal fortunes than he has. And then, instead of berating Mitt over it, Huckabee made a really bad, uncomfortable joke about it! Oh Huck....