Last night, on “Devil’s Night”, Drexel University hosted MSNBC’s Democratic debate, and it was a deliciously evil event. Brian Williams’ questions often lasted longer than the timed responses of the candidates, and, though generally more polite, attacks on Hillary Clinton were even more popular than at the last Republican debate. Hillary, given more face time than anyone, went out of her way to answer the fewest number of questions, leaving Barack Obama open to straight talk his way to the best performance of the night. The highlights…

Barack Obama, in deference to Philadelphia’s history as hometown to a fictional character, likened his battle against Hillary to that of Rocky vs Apollo Creed, though “amazingly” he is Rocky. Obama thought it not prudent to discuss war with Iran, stressing the need to use diplomacy to dangle “carrots” such as normalized relations and WTO membership. He called out Hillary on her hypocrisy of running on her (jobless) record and blasting the Bush administration’s secrecy, while refusing to allow the release of communications between her and Bill during the Clinton administration. Obama stated a desire to work with Republicans, rather than have another “8 years of bickering”, and suggested that Republican attacks on Hillary were due to the fact that that is a fight they are comfortable having, rather than as a result of her position as frontrunner. Obama’s plans included closing corporate tax loop holes, rolling back the Bush tax cuts and, oddly, suggesting that the wealthy pay “more than their fair share”, which seemed…unfair. Obama had some other low points, awkwardly suggesting that funding the war in Iraq makes kids not study science, proposing ambiguous restrictions on some commercial flights, and wrongly stating that Social Security is a fundamentally sound system. He finished strong though, insisting that while Hillary gauged popular sentiment instead of answering questions, he had convictions, and was confident in his ability to lead the country in the right direction. When asked about life beyond Earth, he stayed on his message, which focused on life on Earth, and added that he might wear a scary Mitt Romney mask for Halloween.

John Edwards spent much time on why Hillary was both unfit for president and misleading about her positions, claiming her vote for the resolution labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization contained the same verbiage that allowed Bush to go to war in Iraq, and he predicted Hillary would once again retreat to her “if I knew then what I know now” rhetoric. He cited Hillary’s plan for Iraq as a continuation of Bush’s war plan, as it would continue combat operations and leave troops in Iraq indefinitely, which is in direct opposition to her vague anti-war lip service. Edwards’ suggested alternative of a vote for him seemed forced in that he was in agreement with most of the other candidates on that issue. Edwards spoke about integrity – which is funny considering his background, though he did claim that he was far from pure – and called on the Americans to be patriotic about something other than war, which he deemed would result in some “sacrifice” they would have to make. He stated that as Hillary had more money from lobbyists, drug companies and the defense industry than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, a vote for her was a vote for the status quo, rather than for change. “I believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy,” he said, but not in Hillary as a mechanism for change.

For those of us devastated by the exclusion of Mike Gravel and the accompanying entertainment value, Dennis Kucinich‘s wackiness more than made up for it, even before he was asked about his UFO sighting experience, during which he allegedly “heard directions in his mind” which may or may not have included instructions on how to bankrupt Cleveland. Perhaps due to a premonition about such queries (a gift from the aliens?), Kucinich ominously warned the moderators to be careful about what questions they asked, and then proceeded to be careless in how he answered. About as coherent as he got was when he took a shot at John Edwards for taking money from a hedge fund, while the fund managers pay unfairly low taxes. Kucinich insisted that politicians stand up to Wall Street, insurance and oil companies, while he trumpeted his not-for-profit single-payer health insurance plan. Then he got back to his other new ideas. He said he would “cancel NAFTA”, and suggested slashing the Pentagon budget by $75 billion in order to pay for…child day care. He demanded we abolish all nuclear weapons so we can talk to Iran about not building any of their own, and declared that “planning” for a war with Iran was illegal, apparently ignorant of the fact that administrations are expected and known to have plans for any imaginable scenario. Kucinich said that Bush had violated international law and thrice called for him to be impeached, which in interesting, since Constitutional Law is what runs the US, not international law. Kucinich finished by stating that Jimmy Carter had also seen a UFO, and seemed quite pleased after making Tim Russert repeatedly cite a statistic saying that some 14% of Americans had seen a UFO.

Hillary Clinton showed up at the debate, but not apparently for the purpose of answering questions. She defended both Eliot Spitzer’s plan for licenses for illegal aliens (human, not the Kucinich kind) and Charles Rangel’s plan to impose an additional 4% surcharge tax on those making $150-200k or more, and yet insisted that she did not support either plan, nor was she necessarily opposed to them, but that she admired their attempts to fix a problem. She attempted to blame the existence of illegal immigrants on the Bush administration’s failure to address the problem, as if the problem never existed under her husband’s presidency. Hillary repeatedly said she wanted to end the war in Iraq, which is just swell, but (as pointed out by her opponents) she claims she would leave troops in Iraq and not end combat operations. She called for economic sanctions of Iran, labeling that a form of “diplomacy”, which was quite a stretch. She continued her smug evasiveness, by three times insisting that “I would do everything I can” to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but refused to answer the question of would she pledge to make sure it wouldn’t happen. She added plenty of meaningless chatter, laying bomb shells such as that she “doesn’t oppose troops”, and would “welcome” Republicans to join her in her crusade against Bush, and even resorted to the sad, ignorant play that Bush had not actually won the election in 2000. Adding to her paranoia, she alleged that Republicans had wanted to “decimate” the (non-existent) surplus in order to lay their trap and privatize Social Security, an idea that is “draconian”. One began to wonder if someone had spiked the Halloween punch. When asked about her lack of experience, she helplessly cited her “record of 35 years” as a citizen advocate and as a “supporter” of education and health care. Hillary spent time agreeing “with everything that was said” (except for the constant attacks on her), and insisted she would do “everything [she] could” to do something important, without making any actual statements about anything specific she would do. It was a sad political display, a rare attempt to spin without first finding something to spin.

Surprisingly, Chris Dodd was the only candidate who was for decriminalizing marijuana, and he defended his lonely position well, citing overcrowded prisons, and senseless mandatory jail sentences for people who don’t belong in jail. Dodd blasted Hillary’s votes for war in Iraq and Iran as indicative of her lack of good judgment and leadership qualities. Dodd said the reality with green products is that they are too expensive, so he suggested a carbon tax, which would seem to make the costs more similar, but not any more affordable. Citing polls stating that 50% of people wouldn’t vote for Hillary, he argued that the Democrats need to nominate someone electable, but he couldn’t possibly have meant himself, especially considering recent poll numbers, where he was at 0% and trailing Stephen Colbert by two points.

Joe Biden declared that Hillary’s vote for the Iranian resolution threatened to inflame problems with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and allowed Bush to act “in the right” against Iran. He then attacked the leading Republican as well, saying Rudy Giuliani was unfit to lead, and every sentence he said was, “noun, verb, 9/11″, scoring laughs from people who were following the news last year. Biden called for a 16-year minimum education system, suggested a college tuition forgiveness in exchange for public work, and was very pleased that he finished within his alloted 30 seconds. He said he would “shut down” toys from China, and somehow cited China as the reason why Americans have mortgages with which they are unhappy. Biden ended by suggesting that Kucinich ask Giuliani about UFOs, indicating that he still hasn’t found his off switch, but at least Biden didn’t say how much he liked Kucinich’s wife again.

Bill Richardson, practically begging for the VP slot on a Clinton ticket, argued that Democrats shouldn’t fight each other, and stated how much he trusts Hillary. He stated that he was the only candidate who had negotiated with other countries (which drew multiple yells of “not true!” from his opponents), and claimed that he personally rescued prisoners from Abu Ghraib. He rightly reminded everyone that the US elects governors, not senators, and that the last senator elected president was JFK. He suggested a specific plan of two years of tuition forgiveness for one year of public service. He then got much less specific, though far more abstract, calling on Americans to “sacrifice” by banding together when the air conditioning is on. Hard to argue with that.

In last night’s Democratic Presidential debate Hillary bombed, and not a random bomb, but a full-blown Dresden-style bombing.

Yes, she was under attack from her opponents, justifiably so. But when John Edwards can nail you with a line like this:

“Unless I missed something, Sen. Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.”

…you know it’s not your night.

Can't we all just not get along?

And the hits just kept on coming from Edwards and Obama.

It’s about damn time that primary started to look like a primary. Candidates have to draw contrasts between themselves and their opponents. While the people that end up looking bad (like Clinton) call it “going negative,” it’s what has to happen in order for people to learn what these people stand for.

If someone can’t be straight with the public, no matter how crazy their ideas are, you end up with a situation that makes Senator Barack Obama say things like:

“I was confused [by] Sen. Clinton’s answer. I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it.”

Welcome to the club, Senator.

But, as with Rick Lazio daring to walk across the stage in a “threatening manner,” you run risks when calling a Clinton out on their deceptions, you run risk of being called a bully. If what a Clinton aid told Drudge is any indication, the public and media’s willingness to accept the poor Hillary card is going to need a lot better spin than complaining about the host.

CLINTON INNER-CIRCLE BLAME ‘UNFAIR’ MODERATOR TIM RUSSERT. ‘HE BORDERED ON THE UNPROFESSIONAL,’ TOP HILLARY ADVISER CHARGES. ‘HE BROKE DEBATE RULES AND WAS BELLIGERENT’…

Not fair! He called us on our crap! Just wait till the general, Senator… If you make it there.


(From the It’s First Friday blog, who feature Christopher Hitchens this Friday at their monthly happy hour and liberal actor Steven Weber from Wings and Studio 60 as a guest blogger. Check them out.)

Once upon a time, on a crisp fall day (October 16th, 2006) Political Derby proudly introduced the term ABH (Anybody But Hillary) into the political lexicon. It was a glorious, defining day in our country’s history and we’ve been using the term ever since.

Enter Dick Morris. Today’s piece on RealClearPolitics contains this familiar turn-of-phrase:

And on the Democratic side, Edwards, who had been leading in Iowa until recently, would probably have to leave the race. That would coalesce the entire ABH vote (Anybody But Hillary) around Obama, giving him a leg up in the national race.

Here at the Derby we don’t need credit for coining terms like “ABH” or “2008 Power Rankings” or “Kucinich is a Dope”. Of course we don’t need attribution every time someone steals one of our pithy lines. But really, Mr. Morris, would a gift basket have been so hard?

After last night’s debate, how would you rank the democrats? Did Hillary’s star lose some luster? Fire when ready…

Rudy’s plan has been an unconventional one since the beginning: ignore the traditional early states like Iowa and New Hampshire and go out and win the delegate rich states like New York, Florida and California. Seems logical enough, except that his campaign team has forgotten the first rule of political fight club. There is no logic in presidential politics.

While there may be no logic, there is history to examine, and one fact that Team Rudy may have uncovered is that only once in the last 40 years has a candidate won the first two states – Iowa and New Hampshire – and failed to win the nomination. (Trivia question – who was it?)

An article on Politico talks about the factors behind Giuliani’s change of heart on an early race and it appears to come down two factors:

The shift in strategy is motivated by both opportunity and fear.

The fear is letting Mitt Romney sweep Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan and gaining a level of momentum that Rudy potentially could not counter on Super-Duper Tuesday.

The opportunity is the fact that Romney, despite spending buckets of money in New Hampshire, is not quite running away in the polls. In fact, as recently as July, several polls had Romney up by as many as 16 points. Some recent polls have his lead at 10 points or even as low as 6.

The funniest part about this whole scenario is the fact that New Hampshire hasn’t even officially set the date for its primary:

While most in the state expect it to be held on or around Jan. 8, Secretary of State William Gardner — who has unilateral discretion over when to schedule the primary — could still move it up to December, before the Iowa caucuses.

If Giuliani can pull a Grinch and steal New Hampshire from Romney while he’s sleeping, it would be a serious blow to Mitt’s plan to sweep the first three and ride the wave of momentum to the nomination.

John Edwards wants to take from you so he can give to you. Seriously. His economic plan, if you can call it that, is to promise everyone everything, but he has to take it from you in order to give it to you. It’s like someone stealing your wallet to buy you a birthdayThere are dangerous things happening up here. gift.

He wants universal pre-kindergarten, which leads us to ask when are parents responsible for their kids? He wants a minimum wage of $9.50, which makes us ask who is going to hire unskilled, entry level labor at that wage? He wants to add a million more people to have their housing subsidized and/or paid for by your taxes, because public housing works so well right now – no drug or gang problems in them. He wants a matching savings account program for low-income people, remember how well welfare worked? And he wants to create a program called “College of Everyone,” which means expect college costs in increase exponentially since that’s what they did when the government started underwriting it in the first place.

Since Edwards has a better shot of being elected Pope than he does President, these proposals are not as disturbing as they could be. But remember them because when a liberal proposes some ridiculous program it gets in the minds of other liberals and, just like a government program, it only grows.

John Edwards and his campaign have cracked me up for months with their light-speed sprint to the left and Edwards’ straddling of the Two Americas. But for once they’ve made me laugh on purpose! Catch this tasty little ditty from Edwards’ spokeswoman Teresa Wells on the subject of Stephen Colbert’s campaign stop in SC this weekend: (from CNN)

Edwards spokesperson Teresa Wells also ribbed Colbert for his ties to the snack food industry. Colbert has said his campaign will be sponsored by Doritos.

“What is more troubling than his quest for a status his own mother won’t grant him (favorite son) are his ties to the salty food industry,” Wells said. “As the candidate of Doritos, his hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from taco chip lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn’t in the pocket of the snack food special interests.”

Kudos to Camp Edwards for having a sense of humor despite their stumbling campaign.

(Open invitation to Teresa: Any chance you’d blog for Political Derby when Edwards withdraws after losing Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina? I humbly await your reply…)

The Ron Paul snow ball has been gaining momentum, but among Republican presidential hopefuls, Paul has remained stuck in the second tier category. That may be about to change. A recent poll has put Paul at 7% among likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, good enough for fourth place. Nationally, Rasmussen Reports show the media-deprived Paul trailing Hillary Clinton by only ten points in a head to head match up, with Paul having nearly doubled his “favorable” rating since April.

After impressive fundraising in the last quarter, the thrifty Paul campaign has finally made its first major investment, in the form of a radio ad campaign in early primary states. Further, Ron Paul’s first television ad campaign will begin in New Hampshire this week. With increasing public face time for Paul, and with the campaign stating that its 4th quarter fundraising goal of $12 million is within reach, a dark horse may be creeping up on the pack.

No one just gives money away, except the government, but since they don’t earn it, they just take it, it’s not the same (that’s our money already anyway). In life you have to earn the money you get, or steal it (we don’t mean to keep bringing up government). However, someone is nearly giving it away for nothing, or so it would seem. But, like most things in life, there is a catch, and this catch is a big one: You have to make an video that makes Mike Gravel look good.

We love the former Senator from Alaska, he’s easily the most entertaining of the Democratic candidates for President. Yes, he’s the only person on the stage that give Kucinch a run for the straight-jacket award (too close to call), but he’s got that crazy old uncle appeal Dennis lacks (though Dennis more than makes up for it with the hot wife).

A man called Gregory Chase, upset upon hearing of Grave’s exclusion in the October 30th debate, decided to put his money where his mouth is. (As an aside, what the hell is going to be worth tuning in for without Gravel?) He’s putting up a million of his own money, earned from managing evil hedge funds, to try to get Gravel into the debate.

Turns out Mr. Chase is offering the cash to NBC, either to buy ad time during the debate or as straight-up payment, to get them to include Gravel in the debate. Mr. Chase thinks it was NBC’s decision, but can’t prove it. That sounds about right, though we suspect there was some behind the scenes complaining by Hillary and Edwards since they’ve were overheard plotting this sort of move a while ago. They wanted to remove the lower-tier candidates from future debates, though one wonders by what unit of measure Edwards maintains top-tier status.

Mr. Chase isn’t going to stop with simply bribing a liberal news organization to do their job, he’s got something else up his sleeve to help Gravel; a contest.

He’s offering up $25k to whoever can make the Gravel video that gets the most views on YouTube by the end of the year. While the rules don’t say so, we assume the video has to be pro-Gravel since Mr. Chase is. And it has to be new and posted after October 17th, so the strange rock throwing video doesn’t count. You can find the rules, as vague as they are, here.

Good luck stringing together 30 seconds of Mike Gravel not sounding crazy!

The Hill is reporting that Senator Brownback will meet with Rudy Giuliani today to discuss his views on abortion and a possible endorsement of Rudy’s campaign for the White House.

Most are saying such an endorsement would carry tremendous weight with religious conservatives who are uneasy with Rudy’s liberal position on social issues, most importantly abortion. The Hill says:

Giuliani would gain the most from Brownback’s endorsement because he has consistently encountered opposition from social conservatives owing to his views on abortion. He has drawn strong criticism for reiterating in a televised interview earlier this year his position that the federal government should provide funding for an abortion if a woman could not afford one. Giuliani’s standing atop national polls has scared Christian conservative leaders so much that several prominent leaders threatened last month to support a third-party candidate to block his path to the White House.

Brownback’s support, however, could assuage the concerns of many social conservatives and provide him a path to the Republican nomination.

Hogwash! Those opposed to Rudy’s candidacy are not going to abandon their own deeply-held views on abortion because Sam says it’s OK. In fact, many of these folks may be offended by the notion that you can campaign as the “only conservative” in the race, the one carrying the “pro life” banner higher than anyone else, only to abandon that by supporting a pro-choice candidate. It’s one thing to pledge to support the eventual nominee, which Brownback did during an early debate, it’s quite another to back the one candidate in the race furthest from you on the ideological spectrum.

Write it down. An endorsement of Rudy’s campaign will guarantee Brownback faces an intraparty challenge for his senate seat in 2010. (Think Specter, Arlen)

Even flirting with an endorsement of Rudy exposes Brownback as someone driven more by political calculus than a moral compass. How can Sam bash Mitt Romney for being a “flip flopper” on abortion and question his “conversion”, but then say this about his meeting with Rudy:

I’m going to meet with him and I’m going to talk to him and hear what he is specifically saying now because he’s changed on a number of the abortion issues,’ Brownback said in an interview. ‘He’s changed on partial-birth [abortion] and he has said he would appoint strict constructionists.’

Either Brownback isn’t really pro-life, or he believes he has a shot as Rudy’s VP (he doesn’t), or he’s got the political skill of a guy who can’t get above 2% nationally. (Oh, wait, sorry, that clears it up.)

Poor Hillary, or should we say Hillary’s poor? Either way, things like they may be lining up against her lately. She collects record money from people who have no money, not to Why's everybody always picking on me?mention her little problem with Mr. Hsu, the allegation that she bugged cell phone calls of her opponents, her campaign using admitted classified document thief to advise her on national security issues and don’t forget her desire to give every person in the country money (after taking it first through taxes).

These things will be perfect fodder for the general election, should she win the Democratic nomination. But, as President Howard Dean will tell you, that is not a foregone conclusion.

While what’s happening with her now and her history make her the Republicans favorite to run against (let’s face it, the ads write themselves), there is a committed group of Leftists that want to stop her before that becomes a possibility.

A group calling itself Democratic Courage is mobilizing to stop Hillary from getting the nomination. They won’t show their cards just yet, they’re waiting to pounce till they’re ready, but they claim to have the money to do it.

“We’ll definitely have sufficient resources to make a significant media buy,” the group’s leader Glenn Hurowitz told Politico.

We don’t really care who the Democrats nominate, we’re comfortable beating any of them (though, if we did have a wish, it would be Gravel, just for fun), but this could make for an interesting primary season.

Fred Thompson didn’t appear to care much about the recent defection of supporters. He also didn’t appear to care enough to try to shed the “lazy” label that has dogged him since he entered the race. In the wake of losing a media strategist as well as a major Republican supporter in New Hampshire, Thompson suggested reporters ask his campaign, presumably the staff that remains, rather than Fred himself, as he “can’t address who’s doing…what.”

In only his second campaign visit to South Carolina, Thompson lit up the crowd with an inspired “We don’t need to invent new ideas.” Certainly not a progressive attitude. Despite his claims that there are plenty of good ideas already thought up, it couldn’t hurt to try to think up something new. Asked about the threat of some states, including South Carolina, losing delegates due to early primaries, Thompson offered another bit of diligent wisdom: “It’s hard to figure out, so I don’t try to.”

Thompson’s strategist loss was a gain for the campaign of John McCain, himself no stranger to lost campaign staffers. Thompson’s lost New Hampshire supporter indicated that he abandoned Thompson due to the candidate’s lack of interest in his state, certainly an understandable attitude considering Thompson has not set foot in New Hampshire since entering the presidential race. That lazy label sure is hard to shake, especially when you’re too lazy to shake it off.

Is this old Clinton scandal gaining new life? It’s certainly finding a resurrection online. According to CNS News:

The trailer to a new film about Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, “Hillary Uncensored — Banned by the Media,” has garnered big audience numbers — about 1 million viewers — on the Internet. The movie documenting alleged campaign finance violations soon will have several screenings in the Northeast, including three in New Hampshire, the state that will hold the first presidential primary.

Remember, you saw it here!

The Republican National Committee is getting into the Halloween season by conducting a poll on who is the scariest Democrat.

Click to check out the poll.

It’s ironic that Hillary has as big a lead in the scariest Dem race as she does in the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination. She leads the field with an incredible 91% of the vote. Clinton is followed by Barack Obama at 5% and John Edwards at 2%. Joe Biden and Bill Richardson collected 1% each and Senator Chris Dodd has gotten no scary votes as of me writing this sentence.

Maybe Chris Dodd should rent a Hillary costume?

Hillary Clinton has established herself as a tier of one atop the Democratic race for the nomination, while the Republican race may be moving into a phase where there is no legitimate top tier, let alone a front runner. It’s a wide open race, and some of the horses who have lagged behind up until now can smell vulnerability coming from the leaders.

I think any one of the GOP candidates outside of Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo can claim they have a shot at least of having a say on who the nominee will be.

Of the remaining six, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee are the two longest shots to win it, but given Paul’s money and fanatical base and Huckabee’s strong appeal to the Christian right, they can be players in the game. When it comes time for them to drop out, their endorsements will go a long way to help one of the remaining candidates to seal the deal.

At this point, you can almost throw a blanket over Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mitt Romney, I think the race among those four is very close. Giuliani leads the national polls, Romney leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, Thompson looked like he has his act together in the debate last night and McCain is showing some life after being left for dead this summer.

They are all flawed – Giuliani is too liberal, McCain is too old, Thompson is too lazy and Romney is too fake – but each of them brings something to the table that could give them the slingshot they need to take down the Goliath that is Billary.

Now all they have to do is figure out how to win.

The Republican debate from Florida on Fox News was chock full of Hillary Clinton bashing, and raised the bar on intra-party attacks. Immediately following the debate, despite the top-tier candidates receiving more than their share of time, Fox’s text poll gave the win to Ron Paul, with Mike Huckabee finishing in second place. That may have not seemed accurate, if only because Paul and Huckabee had far less face time than Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and likely winner Rudy Giuliani. On to the highlights…

Despite Sean Hannity’s insistence that his own poll was rigged, Ron Paul won the “Who won the debate” text poll. If Hannity stopped to think, he might have realized that considering Paul’s clear distinction between the rest of the field (against the war, for ending the income tax, and for gay marriage), a plurality is hardly unreasonable. Paul claimed that 70% of Americans want the war over, and even assuming a half Rep-half Dem mix where all Democrats are anti-war, that would still mean that 40% of Republicans want the war ended. Along with his usual vocal fan base, Ron Paul also endured some negative reactions from the crowd, but certainly offered some unique ideas. He insisted that seniors who have paid into Social Security should be protected, but he said young people should be allow to get out of the failing system. He stated that since the Federal Reserve took over in 1913, the dollar, in real terms, is worth only 4 cents, and that the government must be removed from such systems where it doesn’t Constitutionally belong. Paul found the gay marriage question silly, stating simply that marriage is a religious institution, and that the government has no right to involve itself in any private relationship, whether social or economic, between people. He stated a need to end imperialism, claiming Republican candidates from Eisenhower to Nixon to Bush have been elected on peace and isolationist platforms. Paul stressed that Republicans and the US need to have a common sense foreign policy, and must return to a Constitutionally mandated limited government, rather than accept the Democrats’ ideas of entitlement and deficits.

According to the poll, Mike Huckabee came in second. Huck suggested that prevention was the key to lowering health care costs, claiming that a whopping 80% of costs are spent on chronic diseases. He got some laughs when he said that the Medicare and Medicaid problems would only be compounded when “all the old hippies” find out they can get free drugs. He said the books on Social Security were drawn up so that seniors would start collecting benefits at 65, and were expected to die at 67. He said that that wasn’t going to happen, unless we “take them out”, which he quickly insisted was not a good idea. Huck said he likes to be funny, but said “There is nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president.” He claimed that she would be a disaster, with health care in the federal domain, rising taxes, out of control spending, and a loss of military morale.

Rudy Giuliani had a pretty good night, reminding voters of George Will’s claim that as New York’s mayor, Rudy had run the most conservative government in the last half century. In response to charges that many teachers disliked him, Rudy claimed that while there are good, average and bad teachers, he, frankly, cared more about the kids. To that end, he stated that parents, rather than Board of Education officials or bureaucrats, should have the right to choose where their own children go to school. Rudy also got plenty of laughs and cheers. He blew a kiss to Florida (where the debate was held), thanking them for not electing Al Gore in 2000, and promised that his party would not, unlike the Democrats, be boycotting the state. He attacked Hillary Clinton a few times, using her own words against her, quoting “I have a million ideas. America can’t afford them all.” “No kidding, Hillary,” he continued, “America can’t afford you!” Unlike in past debates, Rudy did seem to run a bit to the right. Despite a reputation of being relatively gay-friendly, he said he would support an amendment banning gay marriage if a critical mass (5, 6 or some other random number) of states allowed gay marriage. He had performed 210 marriages as NYC mayor, and all between “a man and a woman… I hope.”

Perhaps the harshest words came from John McCain, whose blistering attack on Mitt Romney may have opened the way for all out Republican in-fighting. “Governor Romney,” McCain said, “you’ve been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine.” McCain suggested that anyone who believes Hillary opinions on health care should go visit Canada before deciding. His best line came when blasting Hillary’s overspending, specifically her attempt to federally fund a Woodstock museum: “I’m sure it was a cultural and [pause] pharmaceutical event,” but said he missed it, as he was “tied up at the time”, in reference to his ordeal as a POW. McCain, in a slight against President Bush, said he looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes and saw “three letters: KGB.” He then misspoke, suggesting that the US put missile defense shields in Czechoslovakia, a country which hasn’t existed for some time. While he certainly had some key moments, McCain seemed resigned in repeating that he is running on his conservative record, and seemed almost tired and unable to understand why he hasn’t been able to muster more support.

Fred Thompson had a better debate than the last (a week off from campaigning will do that), but was still tossed some softballs – Have Rudy and Mitt convinced you? Are you lazy? – allowing him to win favor with his humor rather than his answers. Thompson was attacked by Rudy for voting against every meaningful tort reform, and questioned about his private work for Planned Parenthood despite his Pro-life voting record. Fred had some good moments. He claimed that the major flaw in the Democrats’ plan to continue to raise taxes on the rich was that according to the Democrats, everybody who “works for a living” is rich, and he added that the Democratic vision of a “comfortable mediocrity” is unacceptable. On the downside, when discussing the No Child Left Behind program, for which he voted and now says he opposes, he paradoxically suggested a scenario where each child scores a 90 on the test, but doesn’t learn anything. He concluded by addressing his “laziness” label awkwardly, stating that he has 5 kids, two under the age of 4. Presumably, that could suggest he’s not lazy, or it could suggest that he had taken Bob Dole’s little blue pill advice.

Mitt Romney had a fairly poor night, suggesting his best days may be behind him. Taking a page from Hillary Clinton’s debate play book, Romney suggested that all the Republican candidates are not like Hillary Clinton (apparently excluding his tactic), and shared Ronald Reagan’s conservatism. For his state health care plan, Romney was attacked by Fred Thompson, who claimed Romney was left of Ted Kennedy, which also left Thompson open for a Groucho-type line: “I didn’t know there was any room to the left of Ted Kennedy. I didn’t know there was any room to the right either.” Romney defended his plan, again insisting on state-run, mandated, universal health care, while awkwardly claiming that the government wouldn’t be involved. Romney did nothing to show tolerance, claiming that gay marriage was a “threat” to religion, and suggested it could “spread”, like a disease, across the nation.

Duncan Hunter again used his precious little time on some odd talking points. Hunter somehow hoped to garner votes by reminding everyone that Reagan helped freedom fighters in El Salvador, while JFK alienated the anti-Castro forces at the Bay of Pigs. He also suggested a joint missile defense system with an increasingly hostile Vladimir Putin. Hunter’s best moment came when he joined the bash-Romney party, citing the numerous costly mandates contained in Romney’s health care plan, including fertility care for 90-year-olds. While “we may appreciate Governor Romney’s optimism,” Hunter’s point on the overextension of mandated coverage was clear.

In his limited time, Tom Tancredo, citing watch group ratings, stated that he was the most conservative of the Republican candidates, and his claim seemed to be backed up by his limited government economic ideas and imposing social issue agenda. Tancredo disagreed with the discussion of how much government should be involved in health care, instead insisting that the Federal government should not be at all involved. Though later than expected, he eventually got around to his central issue, citing the $1 billion California paid for health care to treat illegal immigrants, and a ridiculous, suggested plan to give Social Security benefits to them. He had a good line – after citing the recent Armenian genocide resolution and the Democrats’ “complete ignorance” of foreign policy implications – calling Nancy Pelosi a “lousy House Speaker, and an even worse Secretary of State.”

Hat tip to Bruce for passing this along. It’s a slicker candidate match quiz than the others floating in the webosphere. It’s 11 simple questions.

Last night’s debate was the first one where the Republican frontrunners really seemed itching to go at it. Rudy found himself bickering not just with Ron Paul, but with Romney, Thompson, and McCain, while Huckabee continued to affirm that he’s just dying for the three frontrunners to tear each other’s eyes out. A few thoughts:

Giuliani: Following his 2% showing at the Values Voters poll, Rudy appears to be looking beyond the evangelical vote. He’s aware that his path to the nomination goes around them – and he’s aiming more for assurance than success – he needs to convince the religious right not to jump ship if he is nominated. He seems to think the best way to do this is non-stop Hillary bashing. But does anyone outside of NY really care that he’s a bigger Yankee fan than she is? (Does anyone in NY even care?)

Thompson: He’s getting it together a bit. He was still dry and monotonous at times, and he looked down at his cue cards way too much, but his final moment – a convincing defense against the laziness charge – stole the close of the show. My advice to Thompson: lose the cue cards altogether. In fact, stop preparing notes for debates. You’re not going to win this based on your policy proposals or prepared statements. If you stick to displaying your presence and charm, and remind the audience that these other goofballs just aren’t presidential material, then this thing is yours for the taking.

Huckabee: He had some good lines, and he often comes across as the most sensible of the lot. But he has a similar problem to Obama – he just doesn’t have the commander-in-chief thing down – a critical threshold he needs to cross if he is really gonna compete. Everyone in the audience would be happy to elect him Arkansas Governor again – but President? I’m not seeing it.

And it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Mr. Paul. He got the loudest boos of the night for saying that the other candidates’ pro-war stances will result in a losing ticket next year. Of course, he’s right (and I don’t say that often). While a fierce pro-war stance might get them through the primary, if the GOP nominee doesn’t find a way to reposition his support for continuing the war, and distance himself from Mr. 24% Approval Rating, then they might as well throw in the towel.

Here’s a highlight from Sunday’s debate on FoxNews. There are some nice snipets in this clip.

Everyone knows Senator Hillary Clinton is raising a lot of money, A LOT! But the Los Angeles Times has started looking into where some of that money is coming from.

Everyone knows Democrats get a lot of money from rich liberals, but Clinton is getting Little did the poor know that she was talking to them.money from poor dishwashers and people that don’t seem to exist. This has raised some red flags in the media and even her campaign, or so they say.

Here is just some of what the LA Times found:

Census figures for 2000 show the median family income for the area was less than $21,000. About 45% of the population was living below the poverty line, more than double the city average.

Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton’s campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000.

One New York man who said he enthusiastically donated $2,500 to Clinton doesn’t appear to be eligible to do so under federal election law. He said he came to the United States from China about two years ago and didn’t have a green card.

A man named Liang Zheng was listed as having contributed $1,000. The address given was a large apartment building on East 194th Street in the Bronx, but no one by that name could be located there.

Many poor donors in the article say they felt pressure from community leaders to donate, though it doesn’t mention where they actually got the money to give.

The Clinton campaign should not be taking money from these poor neighborhoods. They should the honorable thing, return the money to people who need it much more than the campaign does and stop working with community leaders to apply pressure to donate.

And don’t even get us started on how the actual source of this money needs to be investigated. The ties between the Clintons and Chinese Communist cash is well documented.
Cross-posted here.