Tempers flared at last night's debate.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - Perhaps it was the cloudburst that hit St. Petersburg just before the debate, but there was an awful lot of mud around the Mahaffey Theater. And it only took one question for Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney to pick up a handful and start flinging it about.
The question was on immigration and whether – as President – Giuliani would support so-called “sanctuary cities”. Within moments, Giuliani and Romney were at each other – the former mayor accusing the former governor of employing illegal immigrants to landscape his mansion – Romney muttering something about it being unrealistic to ask everyone with a “funny accent” working at your home for their immigration papers.
Not exactly the way to win the Hispanic vote in America.It’s a sign of how close the early primary race has become. Romney is aggressively trying to shut Giuliani out of a win in the first few contests, hoping that the traditional “winner’s bounce” will change voters’ minds in the big super-Tuesday states and propel him to victory.
With little more than a month left before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican candidates are in a full-on rush to illuminate what separates them from their challengers. As uncertain as the race was months ago, it is even moreso now. The debate is about leadership and record. Who has the qualities and the qualifications for the highest office in the land. And while they’re all trying to be different, they’re also attempting to be the same. Who is toughest on immigration, terrorism, inflated spending, taxes. Who best to bring the Republican party back to its core values. Time is running out, and so the rhetoric gets ever hotter.
This debate offered a spirited comparison of the issues, policies, positions and records of the candidates. But there was one moment that struck me as supremely odd. Why was John McCain trying to score points by attacking Ron Paul? Paul is an attention-getter to be sure. And for many people – a lot of what he says makes an awful lot of sense. But if McCain hopes to become the nominee, he needs to tell voters how he differs from Giuliani, Romney and Thompson, not Ron Paul.
- American Morning Anchor John Roberts