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. scott

    Huckabee is the only sensible one. He answers with conviction and clear points. I get so frustrated that they talk about a two man race for the Republicans. If it was really a two man race it would be between McCain and Huckabee.

    January 31, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. Sharon Carey

    After listening to the Republican debate last night, I think it was very clear why many of us support Mike Huckabee. He is the only candidate who has the executive experience to be our next president. The media has acted as if he is out of the race, yet he was the only candidate who had the big picture of how to deal with our sagging economy, the defense of our nation, and our exit strategy in Iraq. He speaks clearly about his objectives and communicates better than any other candidate. Even though the debate hosts like to get arguments going, the time wasted debating semantics was deplorable. Why not get on to more important issues? There were four men on that stage, yet, again the focus was on the ones who wanted to sound like a couple of siblings at the dinner table. It's time for some new leadership that doesn't buy its way into office, but represents the average American who works hard and pays way too many taxes to Washington.

    January 31, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  3. Michael

    There is no quetion, that despite giving Mike Huckabee less time, he really did well. His answers were not the particular comments that have been used over and over by politicians. The McCain vs Romney spat showed that John McCain is relying on his efforts to be a moderate on a lot of issues and plays up the Iraq war/foreign policy experience. I don't think that either man looked very good during the lengthy exchange, but partuclarly McCain. We started to see the old angry man of 2000 which he has sought to cover up.

    Huckabee should and will do well in the South after tonight's debate. I really do think this is a race between McCain and Huckabee with people having to decide who is the one that best represents them: amoderate or a conservative. Mitt can stay in the game but he will have to pump another trillion dollars into advertising which he has, leading up to last night's debate, NOT DONE. he is a smart business man- you don't throw good money after bad.

    P.S. Why did they invite Ron Paul? If he has 3% support nationally, then either DON'T invite him or, if you still do, let him have a chance to speak. The moderator lied to him by saying,"We'll get back to you, I'll promise" and then leaves Ron Paul (and Mike Huckabee) out of the debate for 30 minutes. How sad and disrespectful.

    January 31, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Nerakami

    There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the American political process works if at the end of the day, we are looking at the best person for President but because of lack of funds, lack of media attention or whatever else works against these candidates, we end up choosing the wrong person.

    This is truly sad for the American people who end up being the biggest losers.

    January 31, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. Matt Gerber

    I think that it was obvious last night that Huckabee was the winner. He is clearly the best candidate for the nomination. If only he had tens of millions at his disposal like the others! Then he would probably be ahead of both of them in the polls. I especially liked his respect to Ronald Reagan in his answers about the justices and who Ronald would endorse. God bless Mke Huckabee!
    -Matt from MN

    January 31, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Phyllis, GA

    Huckabee and Paul were the only ones who new America wasn't better off today versus eight years ago.

    The way the media/CNN/AC ignored Huckabee and Paul, I am surprise anyone knew they were there.

    Ron Paul does the best in answering questions about the economy, the dollar, and foreign affairs.

    However, if Hillary is the Dem. and Huckabee is the Republican candidate, I will probably vote for Huckabee if the Election was held today.

    If Ron Paul is the Republican candidate, I would definitely vote for him against Hillary.

    Thumbs down for CNN's last night debate.

    January 31, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. DebforHuck

    Huckabee was by far the best candidate on the stage last night. Given the minimal amount of time that he was given, he used it to his advantage, speaking directly to the American people in a clear concise way they would understand. McCain and Romney's bickering showed what has been happening in Washington for the last several years and why nothing has been accomplished. Huckabee's 10 1/2 years as a governor shows that he has the ability to handle a multiple array of issues at one time and make good decisions that positively affect the people he governed. Go to mikehuckabee.com to learn more about Huckabee's vision for the future and his stand on the issues.

    January 31, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. Elinda

    Huckabee the night's big winner ... you are kidding right? You news guys need to understand that the voters aren't influenced by a single debate but by the stand the candidate has made on the issues. Huckabee is set to be the next candidate to quit the race. Mark my words.

    January 31, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. alberto

    Bill you are right on the money as usual. Clinton/Bayh 2008 is the winning ticket

    January 31, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. R Shindler, Yoakum, TX

    I agree on the winner. I look at these debates differently than most people so the text of their messages was not all that important to me. After the debate I concluded there was one debater, one intellect, one old vet who still can not forget our previous failures in Korea and "Nam" and a rich kid who thinks his money can buy anything. What is important to me is the percentage of votes each is going to get. Yes, the numbers will tell me the present make up of the population as well as the literacy of the people empowered to choose our leaders. At the moment I think it is We, the people, who are to blame for the sad "State of the Union" and my only advice is for people to realize you do not need a fox to guard the hen house before casting their vote.

    January 31, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. Matt; Columbia, SC

    So Bill, there were only 3 candidates on stage last night? From CNN's "reporting" that's what it looks like.

    January 31, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. Pete

    This was the first republican debate I've watched, and I was pretty disappointed that Ron Paul kept getting shafted on airtime. I didn't really know anything about the guy except that he seems to have an intensely loyal following; honestly I thought he was just some nut job who got people riled up. He changed my mind tonight. Watching the debate, he only got about 5 minutes (or less) of time to talk, but made more sense in that short time than any of the other candidates. At one point Anderson went down the line asking all the candidates the same question. He cut off Ron Paul halfway through his first sentence! then proceeded to let the other candidates explain their positions. Then all the debate "analysis" completely ignores him. Horribly biased coverage.

    I know a vote for Paul is probably a waste since he doesn't poll higher than 10% anywhere, but I think I'll do it anyway just so I can live with my vote.

    January 31, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. Nicholas

    I fully agree. I did not enjoy it when Romney and McCain started to bicker. It just not fun to watch, and I doubt that will get them any votes.

    January 31, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  14. Gale H.

    I have to say that after the Clinton / Obama arguement on the Democratic debates MLK day, McCain and Romney would've learned that the American public is tired of the mud slinging. I am tired of the press and media deciding for us, who is the more important candidate in these debates. It was evident in the Democratic debate where Mr. Edwards couldn't get a word in and it was evident last night. The problem with some of the candidates having a poor showing in the polls is not because they don't have supporters..you never give them the opportunity to respond to important questions so we have no idea where they stand on the issues. Both Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Paul were cut off from responses several times. They gratiously waited to be called upon. I applaud Mr. Huckabee's comment about the gentlemen at the other end of the table being there also. The debates are out of control...what ever happened to the time limit on response and rebuttal? To Mr McCain and Mr. Romney ...I say Bad Form gentlemen.

    January 31, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. Harry Giles

    Mike Huckabee is far from being a winner. All he has succeeded in doing is splitting the conservative vote between himself and Mitt Romney. The result is invigorating the liberal wing where candidate Rudy has aided McCain by giving him an endorsement which will be seconded today by Arnold who is more left wing than many Democrats.

    Unfortunately, McCain is unelectable in November as his conservative appeal is non-existent. Furthermore, he is 72 years of age and holds as much appeal to younger voters as does Fred Flintstone.

    Perhaps a deal has already been worked out to put a McCain / Huckabee ticket on the ballot in November and thus Huckabee is only still in the race to split the conservative vote to ensure a McCain victory. How short sighted, as I for one, who has always voted Republican, will be very tempted to cast my ballot for the first black candidate and signal a change to the blatant abuses in Washington.

    January 31, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. Joseph W. Mathews

    I wish to could support Huckabee. I loved his presentation last evening, but several of his platform ideas, patricularly regarding taxes, send me to McCain. I do think the guy is honest, straighforward and sincere just like Barack Obama. McCain I can support, but Romney send me to the remote for the mute button.

    Bottom line is I hope Huckabee stays in the race and has a good showing on Tuesday as he's earned it.

    January 31, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  17. Morris Lieske

    They say cream rises to the top and the more I learn about Huckabee, the more I believe that he is the best man for the job at this point in time. The problem is he is short on two important things right now: time and money.

    January 31, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  18. Vicki Wood

    Thanks for the kind article. We agree!
    Mid Missouri Meetup for Mike Huckabee

    January 31, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  19. gemunson

    I thought McCain not only sounded petty, he appeared bull headed enough not to notice how silly his comments were concerning the issue of the enemy waiting in the weeds until we leave. This comment, made by Romney at some earlier time, only solidified his position of not giving timetables. McCain appeared unable to hear or understand this, even when he repeated it himself. McCain seemed unable or unwilling to listen to Romney or Anderson. Anyone unwilling to listen to points of view different from his or her own, definitely does not belong in the White House. I am not a Romney fan, however McCains inability to see, or hear, the irony of his own words is very frightening.

    January 31, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. Kelly

    I am a life-long Democrat who likes to see where both parties stand on issues so I watch both sides debate. However, during last night's debaucle, I was as close to turning the whole thing off and slipping in an old movie as I have ever come. After seeing Anderson Cooper's treatment of Ron Paul I was totally insulted. Even though he is a lesser candidate he is no "less" important than anyone else on stage. He was cut off at every turn and his answers were limited to one sentence or two at the most. It was clear to me at least that Cooper was trying to steer the two main rivals,McCain and Romney, into some sort of confrontation that never quite materialized. I suggest you find a moderator whose leanings are not quite so pronounced or whose plans are not so obvious. I personally do not intend to vote for Mr. Paul but for those who do, I would feel terribly insulted and unimportant. Pushed aside and unrepresented by a manstream media that, while priding itself impartiality, has made itself the decider of the next election. I agree with your comments about Huckabee during the debate but I wonder if the dynamic would have been changed any if Paul had had a chance to speak too.

    January 31, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  21. Ady

    Vote for the one guy that has VALUES!!!! and that is Huckabee. McCain has been there for 25yrs, what is new that he can do now. People stop getting fooled by all this do nothing Politician. Ain't you tired of there lies. What will it take or Americans to wakeup that this people all they care about is there positions.

    January 31, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  22. Bobby- Arl. VA.

    Could not agree more with Bill Schneider. As the Republican base takes the time to inform themselves about McCain, they will discover that he is a Democrat in sheeps clothing. He is what conservatives are not; and the endorsements of liberals like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani will not further his cause. Unfortunately, Romney has been painted as a rich Morman- two things that many people either don't like, or do not understand Huckabee, on the other hand, has consitantly driven his moderately conservative values from the get-go, and that will resinate with the voters. I look forward to a Huckabee-Obama race. It will be a refreshing change of pace.

    January 31, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  23. maggie

    I was very disappointed in how the questions were mostly directed to McCain and Romney. I believe all those participating in the debate should be given equal time to answer all the questions and not be excluded or rudely be interrupted and told they would come back to them and then didn't.
    It was clearly shown that Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee were being excluded. However, I was very impressed by the times they were asked they were able to make their points. Especially thought Mike Huckabee was great letting them know he was still in this race too! Go MIKE!

    January 31, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  24. Maryann - Orlando, FL


    Did you know there were FOUR candidates debating last night. Or trying to. Why does CNN focus on the bickering and nit picking. If you would give Ron Paul a chance, he'd blow them all away.

    Why is the media shoving candidates down our throats????????? I used to think that at least CNN was fair, but I'm doubting it now.

    January 31, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  25. amy

    I give it to Huckabee. He was extraordinary last night. A pity he is trailing in the polls. What a loss for the republican party.

    January 31, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
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