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. Kipper

    Agree that McCain did not do well at all, but disagree that Huckabee looked much better, at least to anyone with a grasp of the issues. The fight right now is between the Romney and McCain. McCain must convince the thinking side of the party (and independents that will still even consider voting for a Republican) that he aligns closely enough with their beliefs and broad direction of where policy solutions should go (or, in some cases, staying out of the way). McCain missed the opportunity to look in Romney's face and tell him that he (McCain) isn't worried about being completely "mainstream" (a word we heard many times last night). Unlike Romney, who will always be mainstream and blow with the fickle winds, he will follow his largely conservative convictions where they lead. That was the point he was trying to make on Iraq; while Romney straddled the fence and hedged his bets, McCain stood alone and at risk to support a cause (victory in Iraq) at his peril. Yet, when his views are out of line with with the broad will of the people (as in immigration), he will work with people of conscience to find acceptable solutions. He missed huge opportunities to "be McCain" and highlight why Romney is not a good choice for the nomination.

    January 31, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  2. Nick, Alpharetta, GA

    Romney made Huckabee look like an idiot, in a polite way, by telling him why building a highway would stimulate the economy, but not until 2012! As Romney pointed out, to get that project going it would take a lot of time, we need something to stimulate the economy now. Unless you're playing favorites, you will have to agree that Romney performed the best. Even the undecided voters on the dial meter that CNN picked were most impressed by Romney. Now an honest thing that you could say to make Romney look bad is, he probably didn't do enough. But as far as this debate and pretty much every other debate, Romney is clearly the strongest. He just has too much stacked against him, existing politicans, he's mormon, he's rich, and all the people who are owed favors by the existing politicians. Probably why he's not getting very many endorsements right now b/c clearly, Romney is the smartest one out there. He uses specifics to show what he'll do and knocks things down that won't work like the highway idea.

    January 31, 2008 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  3. N.S.

    I only wish Huckabee and Paul had been given enough time to express their views. They made more sense than the other two, when they managed to get in a word.

    January 31, 2008 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  4. Nick, Alpharetta, GA

    Huckabee did do well as far as being a likable guy, but didn't do to well in showing that he's ready for President. McCain is a lose cannon. He's better off being the joke of a Senator showing up on Saturday Night Live and Vince Vaughan movies every now and then.

    January 31, 2008 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  5. Ramon

    HUCKABEE for PRESIDENT 2008!!!!

    January 31, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  6. Tom

    It was very dissapointing to have two canidates spend so much time on squabbling and not be able to hear all four canidates views. I will have to agree with Ron Paul there are a lot more important issues than to listen to two canidates repeat the same answers over and over.

    undecided voter


    January 31, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  7. Sandra Lee

    I agree with the governor of California, many important issues were not discussed because the questions were so banal and designed to encourage bickering. I am sure the American people were as disgusted as I was.

    Mike Huckabee did indeed set himself apart from McCann and Romney. Huckabee stayed on topic, it was sad that the candidates weren't given any meat in the questioning. It was so obvious that the moderators considered Huckabee and Paul as unworthy of attention. I would expect more professionalism from the CNN team.

    My daughter supported McCann, but after his performance last night she is rethinking this decision.

    January 31, 2008 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  8. phil

    Bill, the only reason you are pushing Huckabee is that you know he would be the easiest one for the dems to beat.

    January 31, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  9. charlotte

    Huckabee the spoiler?

    January 31, 2008 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  10. AnyoneButMcCain08

    McCain is a ticking timebomb. Why do we want his finger on the button?

    January 31, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  11. Archie, Madison, WI

    Ron Paul participated in the debate as well, you know. Would be polite if you mentioned him at least somewhere in your article.

    Romney and McCain showed, once again that they are giant wind-bags, and the moderators were either completely intimidated by them, or were merely shouted down by McMotonous and Romandonandonandonmny.

    January 31, 2008 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  12. ne,pa

    Romney won hands down!
    McCain looked like the nasty old man he is!

    January 31, 2008 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. Phil Grigg

    Actually, I don't think there was a clear "winner", but the loosers was the entire american public that watched the debates. CNN has the remarkable opportunity to help shape this country through these debates. And what does CNN do? They deliberately bate two candidates against each other on one STUPID issue of who said what. California's Gov. Schwarzenegger was absoutely correct when he chastized CNN for not bringing up important issues such as health care, our image in the world, our crumbling infrastructure, and illegal imigration. Shame on CNN!

    January 31, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. John J

    Last nights debate reminds me of Hillary "McCain" and Obama "Romney". I agree that Huckabee won last night. Ron Paul did not get a chance to talk.

    The more I hear McCain and Romney the more I like Huckabee.


    January 31, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  15. dale

    I disagree to some extent. I felt that McCain did fine. In particular, his response to Romney's remark about the New York Times endorsement. That McCain stayed relatively calm, whereas Romney and Huckabee (on occasion) got "worked up", also helped to make McCain appear more able to discuss, rather than preach.

    January 31, 2008 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  16. michael

    Huckabee is hanging around for the free exposure from the debates. He couldn't handle is finances so he needs a free ride. Possibly looking for a post somewhere later on down the road.He has nothing to lose and continues his comic relief.
    As far as that LYING Washington insider,well that says it all. McCain is just that! If Regan was at this debate ,his line for Mccain would have been,There you go again. If he's a war hero that makes over a million other men heroes that have actually done something.. He's done nothing for any of the service people that served in Korea,or Vietnam.McCain's 26 years of failure. This devil is no more than a front for other washington insiders. Observe where the support is coming from-all the other insiders: congress people, senators, and of course the biggest Murdoch media mogul. Notice how most of the large newspapers around the country are backing this DEVIL.
    I would like to know why Anderson never asked for a clarification of any of McCains answers. He didn't answer one of them and CNN let it go. SHAME on you!
    Romney answered every question to the point, agree or not. Voters know where he stands.He is the candidate that is "straight talk." He is an outsider like Regan was and is the ONLY one running that will make a difference.

    January 31, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  17. mark portaro

    Ron Paul helped his case. He continues to give the facts. We spend money like crazy overseas, fruitlessly, and print more money, that has no value, or borrow money from rogue countries to fincance our lunacy. We then wonder why our economy and dollar are failing. Bring the troops back, defend our borders here and take care of business by eliminating the Fed and IRS. Watch us grow then.

    Ron Paul 2008

    January 31, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  18. lenn

    the debate was disappointing. you ignored the very crucial issues raised by congressman paul. his topics are what the mainstream politicians wont go near. the only man who shows that he understands that our freedoms and standard of living are dependent upon sound monetary policy and not just global supremacy. Why they will not address this is very telling. None of the candidates will improve the SWAMP which is american politics.

    January 31, 2008 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  19. Chuck G.

    If government is broken, it might be caused by your shallow empty debate.

    I hope you ratings are up...you pandered hard for them.

    I hope your bonuses are up....you sold your journalistict integrety for them.

    Chuck G.

    January 31, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  20. Freedom

    I decided to vote for Huckabee on Tuesday. His performance at the debate was great. Did you see Gov. Schwarzenegger whisper to Nancy Regan, " I like him." –in regards to Huckabee. CNN didnt seem to mention that during their post-debate talk.

    January 31, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  21. Fran

    I missed the debate, but I was around when Reagan was in office and he wasnt the best President as far as I am concerned, so if anyone uses him for a reference, that cant be all that gooooood!!!!!!!

    January 31, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  22. Sally

    I agree.

    Huckabee is Reagan 2, and humble enough not to say it.


    January 31, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  23. Pat Estes

    You were right on about Huckabee. I have liked him best since the first debate I watched. He is sincere and honest and I was upset that he was not asked more questions at your debate so others could see what a smart, down-to-earth man he is. Thanks for your nice comments about him. Sincerely, Pat Estes

    January 31, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  24. garon king

    Shame. In such a bias, debacle there can be no clear choice. The disgusting bias shown by CNN and Anderson Cooper dealt a serious blow to the delicate nature of Democracy and free society in America. Shame.

    January 31, 2008 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  25. Phil

    You know, silly me, I thought there were 4 candidates there last night, even though the whole debate featured 2. The winner I thought was Ron Paul, and that takes a lot for me to say since I am a Democrat. He makes the most sense on the Republican side. He gets no respect in these debates. I hope he runs as an independent, because I am not happy with either Democrat, or the remaining Republicans other than Paul.

    January 31, 2008 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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