Low moments aplenty, and nary a champion
Times political editor Adam C. Smith: Who won the CNN/YouTube debate? Not beleaguered Republicans looking for a champion.
Nobody should have been surprised that the sparring was so aggressive in the final stretch of an unpredictable race. What was striking is how so many of these candidates are ripe for attack on so many core conservative issues.
Gun control? Front-runner Rudy Giuliani drew pronounced boos when he defensively talked about "reasonable regulations." Abortion? Mitt Romney received what sounded like stony silence when he feebly quipped, "I'm not sure who that young guy was," after being confronted with old footage of him touting his support of legal abortions. ...
It was an especially bad night for Giuliani. Unlike the chipper, confident performances of past debates, he frequently looked sour and defensive Wednesday night, hours after revelations emerged that as New York mayor he charged security detail expenses to obscure trips to a Long Island resort at the time he started an extramarital affair with his current wife, Judith Nathan.
But after two hours of a frequently dramatic and sometimes quirky forum, we still don't know who is the clear Giuliani alternative. That's good news for the former New York mayor, whose path to the nomination is a lot easier with so many other viable, if flawed, candidates battling for the conservative mantle. (Smith's full analysis here.)