The third GOP debate is finished, and the winner is…? Nobody. Bloggers on both sides agreed that, while many of the candidates were able to express themselves articulately and crank out a few decent sound bites, nobody really distinguished themselves or altered the already-established pecking order.


The Carpetbagger Report was not impressed with the debate, but it did enjoy picking on Mitt Romney, and also noted with surprise the negative attention that the current president received. “Bush gets some time in the sun: In previous debates, none of these guys wanted to talk about the president. Blitzer realized this, so he asked several pointed questions about Bush last night, leaving the candidates little choice. The president didn’t fare well—at one point, Tancredo said he has ‘been so disappointed in the president in so many ways,’ and that he would tell Bush to ‘never darken the doorstep’ of his White House. Much to my surprise, the audience applauded.”


Conservative blog Captain’s Quarters agrees with Carpetbagger Report in its lack of enthusiasm. “What” the debate “lacked in firepower,
it more than made up in pointlessness,” writes CQ, arguing that Giuliani emerged victorious, while McCain fared worst. “He actually had moments of high eloquence…but he blew it big time at the end. He called the US a shining city on the hill, evoking Reagan, and then asserted that he ‘would not build fences and barriers’ around it. Rhetorically, it’s a great flourish—but politically, it’s suicide. He just reinforced the notion that he won’t actually follow through on border security, which most Republicans believe involves building fences and barriers.”


The Cunning Realist criticizes the Republican candidates for not being serious enough. Mitt Romney, for example, used the term “null set” incorrectly, and repeated “sloppy” phrases such as “we knocked down Saddam Hussein” and “the decision to get in.” Jim Gilmore joined Romney in these phrases, saying that “Saddam Hussein was unstable, and so taking him out was good there…” These examples and their policy implications have led the blog to claim that “most are running as Bush third-termers.”


Liberals see strength in Mike Huckabee. Carpetbagger says, “I frequently wonder why the GOP won’t even consider this guy, and frankly, I’m kind of glad they don’t,” while Comments from Left Field “pointed to governor Mike Huckabee as the winner last night in terms of performance,” noting that “he eschewed any forms of common religious/political boilerplate and gave an eloquent and passionate answer that solidified his image as a man of faith….In a crowd of very spiteful, seemingly angry and contentious men, the governor really does stand out as a more benevolent presence.”


The Iowa Voice was critical of the whole shebang: “the format was awful and the questions asked were even worse. Nothing new was really learned from these guys, and if people are watching these to help them make up their minds, it’s not helping them do that. I’m one of those people who still haven’t decided who to support, and watching this debate didn’t move me any closer to making a decision.”

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Eric Hirsch is a Columbia Journalism Review intern.