January 31st, 2008
07:34 AM ET
10 years ago

Schneider: The night's big winner: Huckabee

 Huckabee performed well, Schneider says.

Huckabee performed well, Schneider says.

Huckabee, I think, stood out in this debate as the one who made sense, talked as ordinary people do, and rose above politics. They may have scored. He connected. And that’s a problem for Romney, who would like to become the alternative to John McCain among conservatives who oppose the Arizona senator. But he has very tough competition from Huckabee, who’s forcing people to re-think his run at a time when he was supposed to be out of the game.

But this has always been the way he’s worked: Romney uses money to stay competitive. Huckabee has debates.

I don’t think McCain made many gains – and I think he may have caused people to re-think the race. I don’t think this was his strongest night, not because he was under attack. But because he wasn’t a straight talker. He talked very much like a politician. He was making a lot of charges at Romney – some of which, like the timetable charge, seemed very questionable.

A couple of Romney’s answers were quite good, particularly on the Iraq timetables issue. I don’t think he did himself any harm. But I think the one who really helped himself was Huckabee.

All in all: Huckabee gained ground, McCain probably lost ground, and Romney didn’t help or hurt himself – although he did effectively defend himself. McCain sounded petty – and that’s not the McCain voters know and like.

But to the extent that Huckabee may have made any gains from his performance, Romney’s got bigger worries out of tonight than the Arizona senator.

- CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

Filed under: Bill Schneider
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Jay_C

    This debate was a complete farce. All McCain and Romney did was bicker about the Iraq / timetables question, and who said what. If it wasn't such an importnant issue I ould have been amused by McCain saying that "overall, the Amercian people are better off? I think the old "I want to know what drugs he is taking" line applies here. Paul and Huckabee were given hardly any time to Speak (at one point they both looked at each other like "I can't beleive this??" that was one of my favorite moments. It amazes me how biased these debates are. Anderson Lied to Paul, saying he would get back to him so he could answer a question, but never did. Complete farce.

    January 31, 2008 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  2. QuantumDogma

    Stop the silencing of Dr. Ron Paul.
    Don't you have any ethics?
    There are 4 candidates running for the Republican Party nomination.
    According to the National Taxpayers Union, Dr. Paul is the only candidate who has offered a plan that reduces government spending, by over 150 billion dollars. The others have all offered plans that increase spending by billions.

    January 31, 2008 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  3. Shawn

    Yes, Huckabee with his fried chicken wisdom is priceless. Please make him go away! He is an embarrasment – the Republican's Kucinich. Ron Paul is more sane and reasonable than Huck.

    January 31, 2008 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  4. james

    Cnn all ways makeing thing sound bad---please stop

    January 31, 2008 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  5. Benskin

    I totally agree with you Bill!

    Debate ranking:
    1- Huckabee
    2- Romney
    3- Ron Paul
    4- McCain

    It is sad that Ron Paul did not get enough time to speak at the debate last night.
    I was very disappointed that Anderson Cooper interrupted him a couple of times during the debate and that wasn't professional at all.

    January 31, 2008 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  6. derek

    If Ron Paul was actually given an opportunity to speak, you may have felt that Paul wont he debate, but Cooper made sure that wouldn't happen.

    January 31, 2008 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  7. Margaret McPeek


    January 31, 2008 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  8. Worried about the Republic

    I can only wonder why the candidates were not given equal time to speak. Most all of us already know McCain`s and Romney`s positions. I personally watched the debates to see and hear what Ron Paul had to say on the issues.

    But CNN did their best to marginalize Mr. Paul, and Mr. Huckabee. I find this very frightening that a media company would pick sides in a Presidential debate and try to invoke their choice on the American voter..

    I am sure I am not the only person that felt CNN did not want the voters to hear what Mr. Paul had to say. What is CNN so afraid of?

    CNN your actions only peak my curiosity more.

    January 31, 2008 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  9. Brian

    This debate was a joke. McCain and Romney were confrontational only because the questioners prodded them. Paul is a legitimate candidate and CNN blatantly snubbed him. This election is so important to my future and my daughter's future and what America really needs are objective news sources. Your spin and slant is a huge disservice to this country. It is a disgrace.

    January 31, 2008 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  10. geasr


    January 31, 2008 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  11. Peter Silverman

    And McCain kept repeating himself, which made him sound like an old man. Perhaps he has always repeated himself, I don't know.

    January 31, 2008 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  12. BrentGraves

    It is interesting that CNN and the rest of the mainstream media–along with the debate moderators–continue to try to marginalize Ron Paul during this primary season. As a former member of both the Democratic and Republican Parties, I would suggest that Ron Paul is the only candidate who is interested in following the U.S. Constitution in all areas. He is the only candidate who is not a globalist, unlike the other candidates in both major parties who are getting all of the attention by the mainstream media. Ron Paul is not like the phonies who have the same anti-American agenda as their masters, the multi-nationalists and the banking cartel. Only Ron Paul is interested in dealing with the huge financial problems that the unconstitutional, private, non-goverment "Federal" Reserve has continually caused since it was sneaked into "law" in 1913 when many of the members of Congress had already gone home for a Christmas holiday.

    January 31, 2008 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  13. Ryan W

    Hey Bill was Ron Paul there? I could have sworn he was. Though he was given much less time than the other candidates so I can see how you completely missed him.

    January 31, 2008 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  14. Jen, Boston MA

    Maverick McCain has been dead for a long time.

    His current supporters like Bomb Bomb Bomb Insane Mccain who promises to outdo Bush in warmongering and lying.

    He's proven himself to be more than willing to compromise any principles he might have had before

    if it gets him to the WH.

    A quintessential american hero.

    January 31, 2008 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  15. Beverly

    I am a Democrat on the fence and it appeared that Huckabee could obtain my vote.
    He was direct, to the point and concerned about the issues.

    January 31, 2008 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  16. Pat

    I thought Huckabee was funny and personable and if he were a preacher I would want to go his church. I am a democrat looking for an alternative to Obama. A lot of democrats I know are doing the same. Where I was once looking at McCain, who I think came off smug and condescending, I am interested in Roomney's health care plan in his own state. We don't need another smug and condescending face in the whitehouse. This is going to be a very different race and leaning a little to the left might be a smart move for these candidates. Democrats are very interested in healthcare.

    January 31, 2008 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  17. Rick

    McCain looked old, angry and downright petty. I was actually stunned by how clumsy he was in attacking Romney, how foolish his arguments sounded (when you could actually figure out what they were) and lastly how unappealing they were.

    So, discussions of how long we would need to stay in a civil war are not conservative? "Timetables" are some liberal code word? Right John, we should instead puff up and reiterate that we'll stay forever if need be... that's Presidential.

    Done with him... for good.

    January 31, 2008 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  18. Mike, Fox River Grove, IL

    I have to love how CNN ignores Ron Paul even though many local newspapers, like the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, etc. are talking about his performance and, most importantly, what he said. Even though Anderson Cooper was clearly biased and ordered to pay attention to only Romney and McCain and cut off both Huckabee and Paul.

    So what about CNN? Nothing. Not one word on the entire Ticker. Ted Turner was right, selling CNN was the stupidest mistake he's ever made.

    Now let's look at it from a long time independents point of view:

    McCain – One of his worse performances (even his followers are saying so). He rambled through many answers and definitely blew it on the economy whenever asked. His answer for illegal amnesty was weak at best and wishy washy when compared to his past statements. Sadly this once excellent statesman has become a shadow of his former self and this debate definitely showed a vindictive and stubborn streak that smacks of both Bush and Rudy. Something we do not need in the White House.

    Romney – As usual he was hitting the targets he aimed at. His answers, while clear, still flip-flopped on some issues, and sadly he too was weak on the economy and what to do about it. His smugness at times in regards to McCain belied an arrogance that has appeared in him from time to time.

    Paul – The only one that pointed out how silly it was for McCain and Romney to be bickering over details on something they both agreed on. He was also the only candidate who was very clear on his answers about the economy, how we got where we are, and why. Plus, unlike all the rest (even the Democrats) he is the only candidate who has linked the war, overseas spending, shipping away jobs, foreign investments, and domestic policy together as they should be. Thankfully he said all this even though constantly, and rudely, cut of by Cooper.

    Huckabee – The other ignored candidate now. His frustration at Cooper's idiotic performance as host clearly showed, and rightly so! And unlike McCain and Romney, Huckabee is a respectful man who has been listening, not just to Paul but the American people. He has come out and talked about the points that all three are discussing. Sadly his record, as he tried to defend, shows him to be a big government spender. He knows about the economy but not really what to do. His views on the war are another detriment. I don't think anyone will forget (or ever should) that he said we should bomb Muslim shrines if need be. Talk about a way to have them attack us!

    The winner was Ron Paul, who still is making more money from independent donations than any of the others. Who lasted out the CNN and other hero Rudy. And who still gets more retired and active military donations than any other candidate. He might not have been given much time to say it, but what he did say we know was 100% truthful (check his record) and not just more trumped up sound bites.

    January 31, 2008 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  19. Rick

    OH, and Anderson Cooper... Nice job controlling that debacle of a debate. It was annoying and you should have called the candidates to the mat earlier on.

    January 31, 2008 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  20. Jacob

    I found the debate to be very centered around McCain and Romney. Although the momentum of these two candidates is strong enough to predict they will be the top two candidates, it does not take away from the fact that there was a debate last night that included four republicans. The purpose of a debate is to allow the ideas and beliefs of the contenders to interact with the ideas and beliefs of eachother. I found the media's response to Ron Paul completly ABSENT. The coverage of dial testing left Congressman Paul out of the picture. In my opinion, when he was able to speak, he scared the crap out of the other candidates. They seemed to skirt around responding to anything he said. Maybe my thoughts are biased coming from a liberal minded individual but I would have liked to see the top candidates respond and interact with a true conservative and a Congressman who truly wants to discuss actual ideals and issues.

    January 31, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  21. Bryan

    The media won't let Ron Paul get a word in. The avoid asking him questions, and cut him off when he tries to speak. Is this America anymore?

    January 31, 2008 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  22. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    He came out unscathed, but it didn't counter his lack of knowledge. He doesn't have a clue. Who would be his puppet master? I think we need to elect someone who has indepth knowledge and experience. McCain and Romney can't be trusted and Paul has a personality deficit. Combine Huckabee and Paul and you have one candidate. Luckily republicans have no sense of right and wrong, so they have no problem with either McCain or Romney.

    January 31, 2008 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  23. Fernando

    Thank God someone noticed Huckabee. In spite of the disproportionate air time, he had a superb performance. I counted the number of opportunties each candidate was given to speak–Ron Paul 7, Huckabee 9, MaCain 12, Romney 16. I recorded the debate and I'm also going go back and total the amount of time each candidate was given to speak. I believe the totals will be shockingly unfair.

    This is not new though...The Florida debate was just as uneven. The candidates should at least receive air time commensurate with their standings in the national polls.

    January 31, 2008 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  24. Mike Kelly

    I think that Ron Paul comes across as the most intelligent and well-rounded candidate.

    It is clear that he understands the economics, social, and environmental issues. And he seems the only candidate capable of constructing a new direction that could actually address these issues.

    January 31, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  25. John in Uncasville, CT

    Agreed, I haven't decided who to vote for yet, but McCain lost ground with me last night. He stuck to the same catch phrases all night, "timetables was the buzzword" and "foot soldier in the Reagen Revolution." He came across as whiny and petty. Huckabee made me think long and hard about what we want in Washington, and I agree with both him and Romney, that a governor is better prepared to become President.

    January 31, 2008 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
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