MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - It may have lacked the electricity of the lightning strike during the debate, but Mitt Romney had his own illuminating moment at a post-debate rally.
Romney was addressing supporters at his Manchester campaign headquarters in a dimly lit room when bright lights suddenly came on. Romney told the crowd, "Rudy Giuliani must be around here somewhere."
Earlier during the debate, while responding to a question on abortion, a lightning strike briefly cut off Giuliani's microphone. Giuliani said, “For someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a frightening thing that’s happening right now.”
Romney spent about 20 minutes shaking hands and posing for pictures with campaign workers and supporters.
–CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - The headline from this debate? Sparks did not fly. Republicans clearly decided not to look like squabbling Democrats and to concentrate their fire on Democrats and, to a surprising extent, on President Bush: the mismanagement of the war, the spending, the immigration bill. No one was running to carry the legacy of the Bush Administration.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, had a good night. He reminded New Hampshire voters of why they voted for him in 2000. He was, once again, the straight talker. Even on issues where most Republicans disagree with him, like immigration, McCain made his case boldly and honestly. And probably the most effective moment in the debate was his response to the voter who had lost her brother in Iraq. He made the difficult and painful argument that, in the end, she would come to understand that it was all worthwhile. The camera shots of the woman's reaction were amazing. They showed a clear emotional connection with the candidate.
We learned from this debate what the central issue is going to be in the 2008 general election campaign. Republicans will argue that leaving Iraq too soon will increase the threat of terrorism in the United States. Democrats will argue exactly the opposite – that staying in Iraq increases the terrorist threat.
- CNN Senior Poitical Analyst Bill Schneider
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, rallied his supporters after Tuesday night's debate in the state he beat George Bush seven years ago, and told them it will be another hard primary fight this election cycle.
He told supporters gathered at Jillian's Restaurant in Manchester "something about this state inspires me," and thanked supporters who were with him in 2000.
But he cautioned "it's a long time between now and next January.".
McCain added that his campaign has "the wind at our back."
But he said they'd have to repeat their strategy in 2000, "convincing Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, vegatarians that I'm qualified to be president."
- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign released a statement after Tuesday's Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire:
"Tonight, Rudy Giuliani once again demonstrated why he should be the next President of the United States. Whether it's staying on offense in the terrorists' war against us, securing our nation's borders or keeping our economy strong, Rudy knows what it takes to make government accountable and efficient. He is the strong, optimistic and proven leader our country needs during these challenging times."
Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan released a statement after Tuesday's Republican presidential debate:
"Two nights ago, we saw the Democrat presidential candidates get angry with each other as they fought to see who had flip-flopped on Iraq the worst, who would blame the President the most, and who would surrender first. Tonight, the Republicans talked about solutions in Iraq and how we win the War on Terror. The differences couldn't have been more stark, on that issue or any other. The Democrats want to assign blame and score political points; the Republicans have real solutions to our nation's challenges."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - What is an American? Some of the Republican presidential candidates weighed in with their perspectives.
Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a major illegal immigration foe, said people who come to the United States from other countries need to assimilate, and that they won't be considered Americans "until we no longer have to press one for English and two for any other language."
"It means, number one, cut from the past," Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo added. "If you come here as an immigrant, great, welcome. If you come here legally, welcome. It means you've cut your ties with the past, familial, especially political ties with the country from which you came."
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he was "very uncomfortable with" Tancredo's response.
"We should always be open to legal immigration," Giuliani said. "It reforms us. It makes us better. It brings us people who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. If we lose that, we lose the genius that has made America what it is."
Arizona Sen. John McCain also strongly disagreed with Tancredo's response, saying that "it's beyond my realm of thinking."
"Look, America is a land of opportunity," McCain said. "The question was just asked, what is it to be an American? It's to share a common goal that all of us - a principle - are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights."
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
WASHINGTON (CNN) - "Examine the bill," was Sen. John McCain's response to a question at Tuesday's GOP presidential debate, asking if the new immigration bill before Congress is amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Referring to opponents of the legislation who say that the proposed pathway to citizenship amounts to amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, the Arizona Republican said, "Honestly, with people like that, and I respect their views, anything short of deportation is, quote, 'amnesty.' "
"What we're doing is making it very tough and making them pay heavy penalty for having violated our laws," McCain said in explaining the immigration bill he helped craft.
Among the proposed requirements for illegal immigrants seeking to stay in the United States, they would have to go through a years-long process for permanent residency or eventual citizenship, pay a fine, and leave the U.S. for their home country and apply for reentry.
McCain has had to defend his position on immigration while on the campaign trail and during the presidential debate in the key primary state of New Hampshire.
–CNN Political Researcher Xuan Thai
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The most powerful moment of the Tuesday's presidential debate, according to CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, was Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, responding to a question by a New Hampshire audience member named Erin, whose brother died in Iraq. The question focused on how the candidates would bring the conflict in the Middle East to a point where U.S. troops can safely return home.
Hunter thanked the audience member for her brother's service and spoke about his own son's service. "My son, Duncan, the day after 9/11, joined the Marine Corps, quit his job and did two tours in Iraq. He's in Afghanistan right now. First of all, I want you to know it's worth it. What he did was worth it," Hunter said.
The audience member's brother, First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Clearly, was killed in Iraq eight days before he was to return home in December, 2005.
Sen. John McCain also thanked the audience member for her brother's service and spoke to her directly about the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. "I'm going to give you a little straight talk. This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time. And Americans have made great sacrifices. Some of which were unnecessary because of this mismanagement."
McCain also said he believes the U.S. has a strategy for Iraq will succeed so that "the sacrifice of your brother would not be in vain."
Fmr. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the third candidate of the night to thank the audience member for her brother's service and said that her brother's sacrifice is "is one of the reasons we're safe now in the United States."
–CNN Associate Producer Natalie Apsell
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - Did anyone win Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate?
"God no... and it's almost obnoxiously early," said Michael Kiernan, an undecided voter from Merrimack, New Hampshire, who attended the debate.
Kiernan was picked to sit in the "red zone" during the debate, an area reserved in the front of the stage for voters who have not decided whom to back in the presidential race.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney all received praise for their performances. Basically, little happened Tuesday night to shake up the top of the field - at least in the eyes and ears of those in red zone.
Here is a sampling of observations from audience members who sat with Kiernan:
Darien Lauten, Durham, New Hampshire: "I was so impressed with the field. I thought they were so knowledgeable. I think I was impressed with the camaraderie between them. I think McCain or Giuliani stood out. I think Ron Paul was a little bit out of it."
Laura Varela, Merrimack, New Hampshire: "Maybe Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo were a couple of the losers. I think Mitt Romney might have been a winner. I am not sure about John McCain because of his answer on immigration. I think Rudy Giuliani might have been a winner."
Erin Flanagan, Bedford, New Hampshire: "The last time I was so excited by McCain... I don't have that sense now."
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - We've checked in with the top-tier GOP candidates' camps following Tuesday's presidential debate, and not surprisingly, they all think they won.
Sen. John McCain's advisers said their man was "on tonight," showing "leadership, passion and compassion." They thought his shining moment was his exchange at the edge of the stage with the woman who had lost her brother in the war.
An adviser for Rudy Giuliani on the other hand, thought the former New York mayor's electric moment was when lightning storms passed over the arena as he was explaining his position on abortion. Giuliani's microphone crackled and he gazed toward the heavens. The adviser said the moment showed a "light side of Giuliani" - something voters want to see.
Mitt Romney's spinners thought the former Massachusetts governor put in a strong performance, and were particularly pleased with his defense of his Mormon religion, and his ideas on reforming health care. Those supporters tossed off efforts to paint Romney as a "flip-flopper" - saying the questions keep coming and "he just keeps getting stronger in the polls."
–CNN's Candy Crowley and Sasha Johnson