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Who Won the Republican Debate?

Conventional-wisdom roundup: Who won the Republican debate?

Last night, the ten declared Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley, California for their first debate. With the Republican nomination even more wide-open than the Democratic one, it was a chance for the front-runners to shine and for those on the wings to grab a bit of the spotlight. Who won the first round? We've collected the conclusions of ten bloggers from across the political spectrum:

Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish: John McCain
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...

Erick Erickson, Redstate: John McCain/Fred Thompson
"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. ... But McCain cuisine reigned supreme. He served up a dish of anger, a willingness to criticize, and a desire to fight--hard. ... But let's be honest. Who really won? Fred Thompson. None of the men on that stage really stood out tonight. Tancredo, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, and Jim Gilmore just made you wonder why on earth they were there."

Ann Althouse, Althouse: Mitt Romney
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"?

Roger L. Simon, Roger L. Simon: Fred Thompson
Who is winning the Republican Debate (near end)? Fred Thompson. By a lot. Much as I admire Giuliani and agree with most of his policies, this whole debate was dull dull dull. The wise man stayed out.

Joe Klein, Swampland: Mitt Romney
Here's my gimmick: I listened to the debate on radio. ... Second Impression: Mitt Romney is Reagan Reincarnate. People forget how damn smooth Reagan was, that caramel voice, that you-can't-ever-ruffle-me demeanor. Romney had that on the radio ... especially the aw-shucks ease of answer.

Mickey Kaus, Slate: John McCain/Ron Paul/Duncan Hunter
Judging just on affect, Blink-like, I thought McCain, Ron Paul, and Hunter did well. Giuliani a bit less well. Romney appears stiff and phony compared to the other front-runners. He made me want to go re-read Catcher in the Rye. Tancredo and Huckabee failed to make much of an impact at all. Brownback seemed to be talking about 50% of the time, but I can't remember a thing he said.

Kevin Drum, Political Animal: Not Mitt Romney
However, especially given my pro-Romney post of a couple of days ago, where I picked him as the likely GOP nominee, I have to say that he was the one candidate who most made me want to leave the room screaming. I guess now I understand the instinctive revulsion some people feel toward Hillary Clinton's speaking style. To me, Romney looked like the perfect Stepford candidate, pulled out of a mold somewhere and propped up on a stage where he'd stand there looking good and spouting endless pieties designed to say as little as possible and offend the fewest possible viewers. I half expected someone to come up at the end, remove his battery pack, and carry him off the stage. Brrr.

Taylor Marsh, Taylor Marsh: The Antidote To Right-Wing Talk: Ron Paul
Only one person looks and sounds like someone even remotely related to Goldwater conservatism, from which the conservative movement was born: Ron Paul. That gives you an idea of how dead the Republican Party is today, because Paul hasn't a chance. Ron Paul is the only one who acknowledged that the foreign policy that got us into Iraq is antithetical to the foreign policy history of America. The rest of the guys on this stage proved one thing: they're all a bunch of Bushies.

Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters: Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney won this debate. He looked relaxed, answered clearly, showed real warmth and a sense of humor, and actually answered the questions asked of him--even the stupid ones, to which I'll return shortly. After Romney, one has to think that Jim Gilmore and Mike Huckabee may have made some strides in breaking out of the third tier. They also showed that they could connect emotionally to the audience and give clear, thoughtful answers.

Paul Mirengoff, Power Line: John McCain
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 and Romney, to give answers that will appeal to a reasonably full spectrum of Republican voters without seeming to pander to anyone.