Mike Huckabee dodged most of the weak punches thrown at him during this afternoon’s Republican debate in Des Moines. That’s good news for his surging campaign. And it’s bad news for Mitt Romney’s sinking fortunes.
If there was campaign-shaking news in the forum sponsored by the Des Moines Register — which reported that the debate’s impact could be `seismic’ — I must have missed it. It seemed pretty tame, except when Allan Keyes spent his time ranting, mostly about not getting enough time. He gets more shrill with every run.
Romney was as pre-programmed and as polished as usual, but he did not turn in the kind of performance he needed to stop Huckabee’s stunning rise. A cranky but homespun Fred Thompson drew hearty applause by defiantly refusing to raise his hand when asked about global warming. Giuliani and McCain sounded reasonable and looked presidential, but they seemed to disappear into the background. I swear Duncan Hunter had a bigger impact at times.
All eyes were on Huckabee, but the gloves didn’t land.
A segment on education was typical. Huckabee waxed eloquently but vaguely about sharing good reform ideas between states and the importance of art and music education in turning on young minds to learning. Romney then quibbled about who had the best test scores. (My state! My state!) Keyes said schools need more God. Thompson and others assailed the teachers unions that stands in the way of school choice.
No one jumped on Huckabee’s fluff or mentioned that he was once endorsed by one of those dreaded teachers’ unions. Huh. Whiff.
Immigration? Whiff. Goofy 23 percent sales tax Huckabee favors. Whiff.
With the debates now over and done, Romney now has to make his case 30 seconds at a time on TV. Will he go sharply negative despite the holidays? Will Huckabee morph into the grinch, or maybe Santa, an undocumented Laplander?
We’ll find out soon enough.