I agree with Addie that Mike Huckabee was the winner of last night's debate. Huck was well-spoken and confident. He threw a few bones to his anti-choice extremist supporters while still managing to sound super-reasonable when it came to religion: Of course parts of the Bible are allegorical, he said, and anyone claiming that their interpretation of the Book is absolute has a "small God." Huckabee's positions on taxes and immigration remain outside the mainstream of the Republican party, and he isn't much of a voice at all in the foreign policy debate. The moneyed establishment won't be getting behind him anytime soon, but he proved that he can perform when the pressure is highest.

Mitt Romney was the loser, as every candidate in the race jumped on the opportunity to portray him as a flip-flopper and a hypocrite. Thompson's YouTube video featured an old clip of Romney saying he supported a woman's right to choose. Giuliani started the night off with a bang when he accused Romney of employing illegal immigrants in his home.

And about that Thompson video: Anderson Cooper followed it up by asking Thompson to elaborate on his attacks against Mitt and Huck. Thompson shrugged and said he had nothing more to add. Come on! That was a free 30 seconds to bash your opponents and sell yourself as the better choice for traditional conservatives. And you passed up the opportunity? Every time the camera settled on Thompson, he was looking down, seemingly lost in his own world. He's a bust.

As for McCain, yep, he came off as principled and sad. It was pretty depressing to see what a huge round of applause he received for blaming "American public opinion" for the loss in Vietnam. If McCain were the nominee, Barack Obama would be uniquely situated to neutralize such nonsense. But McCain seems, like Thompson, just exhausted. I don't see a surge heading his way.

--Dana Goldstein

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