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. Chris

    CNN typically leaves Ron Paul out of the picture. This is yet another example of bias reporting. Shame on you CNN. Just look at the Political Ticker Categories on the right of this page. No articles on Dr. Paul. Not one. This election has been bought and sold.

    January 31, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Marshall J

    I think it is silly to think Gov. Huckabee truly won this debate. Was he even there? And to address the comment that he talks like real people do, it is easy to appear like the calm and collected individual when nobody really cares if you are there. He is not asked challenging questions because the media wants him in the race. He only hurts Romney by sticking around, and liberal media love to see McCain leading the pack. Let's be honest; it is a two man race- Romney/McCain.

    January 31, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Andy J, NY

    I think its sad that nobody mentions Ron Paul. I think Ron has the guts to say what all the other candidates WANT to say, and what they know is the truth. His mention of what the CONSTITUTION says and what we are doing/debating/thinking about doing with regards to our county, is undeniably accurate. Now, i don't believe its possible to withdraw all of our forces from around the world, but Ron Paul is 100% correct that our federal government is out of control, be it spending, declaring war without a congressional declaration of such, "controlling" the economy, etc.

    Ron Paul may be made to look like a looney, but that's only because the other candidates don't want to admit that essentially Ron is correct, and he is the only candidate who has a strict constructionism view of the way the Fed Gov't should interpret the constitution.

    January 31, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  4. Beth Beal

    It's a shame that 4 presidential candidates were invited to the debate, and then 2 of them were ignored for 80% of the evening. CNN should try to give equal time to each candidate. Despite having only a few minutes to speak, Mike Huckabee proved again that he has a firm grasp of the issues and is very well qualified to lead this country as president. And, in addition to that, Mike Huckabee showed his character last night as he showed great restraint and patience in a very unfair situation, and listened respectfully to the comments of the other 3 candidates. Every time I hear him speak I'm more convinced that Mike Huckabee is the best choice for president in 2008.

    January 31, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. gee dub

    There are still 4 GOP candidates in the race, aren't there? I have read 2 different summaries of the debate and seen 1 sentence mentioning Ron Paul. Many of his ideas are interesting to me and, I believe, very worthy of much broader discussion. I really thought that once this thing got down to 3 or 4 candidates his positions might get a little more press...hmm

    January 31, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. Kelly from Wyoming

    The debate was a waste of my time. Romney and McCain were given the lion’s share of the debate questions while Huckabee and Ron Paul were nearly ignored. This is disturbing since Huckabee and Paul were the only ones who really connected to the people and discussed actual issues as opposed to the Romeney Vs. McCain tit-for-tat. I left me very disappointed.

    January 31, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  7. Kelly from Wyoming

    The debate was a waste of my time. Romney and McCain were given the lion’s share of the debate questions while Huckabee and Ron Paul were nearly ignored. This is disturbing since Huckabee and Paul were the only ones who really connected to the people and discussed actual issues as opposed to the Romeney Vs. McCain tit-for-tat. It left me very disappointed.

    January 31, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. annette

    Huckabee and Romney should make a deal with each, I don't care who's Pres/VP, just do something to save the conservative party.

    It's been pointed out in the media that Clinton really wants McCain s the front runner because she knows people like myself will NOT vote for him. Clinton in the end will win.

    Oh well...

    January 31, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. Bev

    Hmmm, I seem to remember Huckabee and Paul getting very little speak time. Extremely disappointing "debate", much more like a high school verbal fight between McCain and Romney. I was ready to puke over the waste of time, and Anderson Cooper did nothing to stop the bickering. There were more important issues to be discussing than "he said this about me and it's a lie". What a joke, and to be held in the Reagan complex, that was an insult to his legacy. Today's Republican party has become as low as the Democrats – the party has abandoned me so shall I abandon it.

    January 31, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. Melissa Green

    What a night! For me this years election is all about trust. The dust up between McCain and Romney was nothing short of childish. Romney panders way too much for me. I don't trust him to tell me the truth. I feel he will say what he thinks you want to hear. McCain is an American hero, but I honestly cannot see him as president. I don't alway agree with him, but atleast I feel he is honest. For me the choice is simple. Huckabee is the only one in this race I can support. I feel a president not only has to be a leader, but has to be able to communicate his vision for the future. Mike Huckabee won my support by being Mike Huckabee. I do believe that he can win the race reguardless of what the media is telling us. Your Reagan Special last night confirmed that for me. People forget he was not the "establishment" canidate. Every once in a while we the people actually do have control of what our parties do. I believe this is one of those years, on both sides of the isle.

    January 31, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Nancy in Arkansas

    I agree with you. Huckabee really connects with people. He was the winner. Everyone should look at the State of Arkansas and see all of the great things he did for us. Yes, our taxes increased for the road improvements, but I voted for the increase!!! So did 80% of the others (both parties) in Arkansas. Look how nice our roads are now!! Also, we paid a bit more to make our schools go from the worst in the country to the top 10 in the country. The federal government said to "do something". Mike chose what he thought was best, and look how well it turned out!!! I will always choose to pay a small amount more now to help the future of my 3 children who happen to attend Arkansas public schools. They are the ones who benefit from this. He makes decisions based on what is best for all of the people. If you look at the tax cuts he implememted (94 of them) in those 10 and a half years, they more than made up for the few increases. Especially for us everyday working folks. He always tried to do what he could for the common working people of our state, and I truly believe he will do the same for the common working people of our great country.

    January 31, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  12. Pete

    Who's Bill Schneider? And who really cares about his blog entries? If you are interested in the candidates, watch the debates and decide for yourself! This guy's an idiot.

    January 31, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  13. Greg, Athens

    Mike won that debate hands down. McCain and Romney both lost ground with me. Too bad CNN tried to slight the debate in favor of the two lead candidates by not giving a fair shots to Mike and Ron, your liberal bais shows through again, Anderson I am ashamed of you I thought you were above that but I guess I was wrong, you are a liberal weasel too.

    January 31, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. StopwatchingMSNBC, Rochester, NY

    It doesn't matter, the media has already picked McCain and Obama. No one else's voice or votes(Florida Dems)count.

    January 31, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. Jeff

    Huck may have some far-out ideas but he certainly knows how to connect with people. In fact, at times it appeared that Romney looked at him with admiration. The "preacher" does speak from the heart, which makes him appear more likeable than either McCain or Romney. Few may agree, but Huck has many of the same qualities and characteristics that made Ronny a superstar with the Republican Party. In times of darkness and trouble a nation looks to someone who gives strength and warmness and comfort – not your typical politician.

    January 31, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  16. Don

    I glad someone else watched the same debate that I did. I have seen little talk this morning about Huckabee's positive performance. Even in a debate that was focused on McCain and Romney, he had a very clear and positive message.

    On the other hand, McCain’s performance was very disappointing. Many of his responses were difficult to follow and did not answer the intended question. In addition, can he just let the timetable issue go? I think the point has been made, but as Ron Paul said they both agree with the current strategy in Iraq.

    January 31, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. Jim ( Independent )

    I agree that Huckabee won the debate. Romney did a great job at making McCain look like an idiot.

    Ron Paul needs togrow a back bone , it's no wonder people don't take him serious.

    January 31, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  18. Robert NYC & Miami






    January 31, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. Aaron

    I'm sorry, were we watching the same program? I won't even call it a debate...

    Romney clearly won, but only because McCain beat himself and Romney is the only other one who got to talk.

    January 31, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. BM

    I was going to vote for McCain in the primary, but now I am voting for Mike Huckabee. He really stood out of the rest last night. He was above politics and had substance.

    January 31, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. sharpinchitown

    Hilarious that Huckabee is declared the winner and the 4th candidate wasn't even mentioned even though he knows and understands our economic and budget/spending problems and was more clear, concise and answered the questions.

    Heck, Huckabee would raise taxes more than ANYONE on the stage last night.

    Paul wiped butt with Romney and McCain and Huckabee would like nothing less than a theocratic nation. He actually wants to CHANGE the Constitution to be more like God's word.

    Bone-chillingly frightening.

    January 31, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  22. Ann Ritterbush

    Mr. Schneider, I totally agree with you about Mike Huckabee's success last night.

    The Governor was able (as usual) to express his positions on issues and positions eloquently, yet clearly, even though he received minimal attention from the panel and many of the questions to him STILL had to do with his opinions about disagreements between McCain and Romney.

    Viewers who managed to sit through the early parts of the debate (which focused on what Romney has referred to as a "two-man race") saw on display two severely flawed Republicans who cannot defeat Barack's Obama youth and energy, contrasted with a younger, articulate, experienced leader whose ideas and integrity shone through.

    Voters are not, as Rush Limbaugh has said, "mind-numbed robots." When they
    consider the candidates, putting aside media bias, endorsements, and all the perennial political traditions, they will see that Mike Huckabee has the experience, conservative credentials (socially, fiscally, and on defense), and potential for success in November which makes him an ideal Republican nominee.

    January 31, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  23. Paul Thompson

    He is a proven leader with a Great Vision….but he actually believes that God isn't just a vending machine…that we just sit in the corner until we want something. And all the candidates believe in God…so please no anti-Christian bigitry.

    Our spoiled nation might not be able to accept that.

    January 31, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. Mike

    For the few questions and little time to respond given to Huckabee & Paul by CNN, I would have to give the debate to Huckabee.
    It seemed all CNN wanted was a fist fight to erupt on stage between Romney & McCain.

    McCain is too liberal, flip-flopping now (just like he says Romney does) on immigration. All I kept hearing is "I was a soldier, I've been in the miltary, I work with liberals (Kennedy, Feingold), this guy wants "timetables". He just wouldn't let the timetable thing go, even after Romney explained his quote and Anderson Cooper corrected McCain. McCain looked really bad constantly saying the same thing over & over & over. Maybe he has Alzheimers or just the beginning stages you know at his age it could get worse quickly.

    Personally I'm voting for Romney.

    January 31, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  25. Kelsey

    To Melissa: How can you say the Huckster is honest when he pulls the whole "I'm not going to run this ad but I'm going to show it to you anyway"? How can you still consider him to be an honest person when he tries to pull the wool over Americans eyes? The media didn't like that plan, our throat cutting media didn't like that little ploy. Huckabee and McCain are on the same page regarding their honesty.

    January 31, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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