HUCKABEE'S NIGHT.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee emerged strong from this debate, coming across as reasonable, compassionate, humble and humorous. If G.O.P. leaders knew what they were doing, they'd throw in with this guy and get him some dough. (See my colleagues at TAPPED writing on this phenomenon earlier in the day.) Thankfully, their own elitism will likely prevent party leaders from giving the former preacher the nod. After all, Mike ain't no fortunate son.

Rudy Giuliani might have gotten away with throwing abortion law back into the states and endorsing gun control had he not come out swinging at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over the hiring of undocumented workers as groundskeepers at the governor's mansion. Even though the base is likely to consider Romney suspect on this issue, as with abortion and his religion, Giuliani cast more doubt on his own character than Romney's when he played so rough right out of the gate, especially considering his own claim to fame is as mayor of a city of immigrants.

Actor and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson blew it by submitting an attack ad as his campaign video. Romney would have been perceived to have done fine had Huckabee not been so appealing. Sen. John McCain came off as super-principled, especially on the subject of torture. Too bad the G.O.P. base is pro-torture. Rep. Ron Paul played Jeremiah, spending most of his time telling the audience what we couldn't afford to do anymore. Rep. Tom Tancredo did what he came to do, care of his patrons, the Buchanans: keep the rest of 'em in line on immigration. And Rep. Duncan Hunter -- can anybody tell me why he's in the race?

--Adele M. Stan

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