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. BM

    You can't take Ron Paul seriously eventhough he says some good stuff.
    He seems to be too narrow in is approach. He might make a good Treasury Secretary.

    January 31, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. Phil

    I was thinking about voting for McCain until last night. McCain wasted more time arguing about Romney saying what and when instead of telling us what he thinks about the issues. I like that McCain wants to secure the borders first but he never tells us what he is going to do after that. Secure the borders and then give illegals amnesty? I don't know. I was hoping to here some answers, instead all I heard was bickering. I like Romney, but he has been campaigning negatively, something Ronald Reagan never did. If this is how John McCain and Mitt Romney deal with one simple question, how are they going to deal with issues in our nations capital. Ron Paul was shut up every time he wanted to speak. He probably makes the most sense out of all the canidates, but he scares me when it comes to pulling out of Iraq. I Support our Troops and believe we must win in Iraq. So Bill, I thought the debate was unfair to Ron Paul an Mike Huckabee but I do agree with you that Mike Huckabee did win and he also got my vote. Even though the debate was unfair it did show the true character of our canidates.

    January 31, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. Debate Watcher

    CNN, what's wrong with the comment that I posted at 8:48 a.m.? It's still in moderation.

    I see a lot of others who are frustrated with this format.

    January 31, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. Kay

    This is the way I look at it after last night's debate on CNN!

    Ron Paul is the candidate everyone is trying to silence. Why is that?

    Is it because he:

    never has taken money from special interest/lobbyists
    doesn't participate in political retirement plan (which isn't social security)
    believes in GOLD backed money
    smaller government
    bringing jobs back to the USA
    lowering taxes
    making Social Security solvent
    believes in our civil liberties
    will not vote on anything that takes away from the Constitution

    I'm was a democrat leaning toward Huckabee, until last night's debate; I wondered why CNN wouldn't let him speak,then I did more in depth research on Ron Paul..

    I haven't seen a candidate like him since Ross Perot! Now I don't wonder why Regan campaigned for him.

    I don't know about the rest of America, but I am tired of politics as usual. Making the rich richer, watching my families hard earned money go for bridges to no-where or China. I'm tired of hearing everyday ..blah, blah company laid off 30,000 employees to move overseas! Wake up America, the government is working for US anymore!!!!!

    I'm voting for Ron Paul

    January 31, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Attacks by the Establishment on Ron Paul Continue

    Congressman Paul has never voted to raise taxes.
    Congressman Paul has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
    Congressman Paul has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
    Congressman Paul has never voted to raise congressional pay.
    Congressman Paul has never taken a government-paid junket.
    Congressman Paul supported Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford in 1976.

    In 1978 and subsequent elections, Ronald Reagan endorsed Ron Paul and supported his reelection to Congress.


    January 31, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. joli

    Mccain reminds me of a slow talking turtle and CNN gave a lot attention to this slow talking turtle. Dr. Paul had the most clarity in what was otherwise resembled a "mine is bigger" type argument. Imagine had he been afforded more time to speak on the issues that affect Americans we could have actually benefited.

    Instead Anderson kept doing "360" spins... trying to start a fight between Mccain and Romney... way to go CNN you only cheat Americans out of gaining perspective on the issues when you petty he said she said before actual substance.

    You all better post this because Ive submitted ti over 3 times...

    January 31, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. MarkAbe

    I thought that the Republican candidates each personally represented a part of the Reagan coalition, and their appearance together at his library represented its fracturing. We had John McCain representing the big military/ interventionist foreign policy conservatives; Mitt Romney representing the business-oriented fiscal conservatives; Mike Huckabee representing the evangelical/ family values/ cultural conservatives; and Ron Paul representing the small but intellectually independent Libertarians. You could even argue that Rudy Guiliani could be seen as the last of the Teddy Roosevelt large-government Republicans, withdrawing before being part of the coalition on stage.

    January 31, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |

    Bang on acurate Bill. And I say this as a Democrat who's voting for Obama. I used to somewhat like McCain, but last night, he was just stubbornly disingenuous, cantankerous, and actually ugly. Gotta say, though I don't agree with several of his positions, Huckabee did make sense, he was warm and congenial, and ultimately quite believable and likable. Romney, typical politician, but a sight more likable than the McCain BS I saw last night.

    PS – I am confounded by the CNN moderation process, who gets posted and who doesn't. It can't be content. Illiterates get posted. Nasty name-calling with no reference to reason get posted. One word responses get posted. Long rambling diatribes get posted. So, please enlighten us caring and frustrated posters. What is the criteria?

    January 31, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. David-Paul Niner, Jax, Florida

    My first thought would be that AC was too prodding and overlooked Huckabee and Dr. Paul, but it was nice to see how Romney and McCain both behaved under pressure. Romney may have come across better on a point-counterpoint analysis, but McCain is more steadfast and believable.

    Of course I don't particularly care for Romney's demeanor in general and would only vote for a Rep if BO gets the Democratic nomination (but not Romney).

    January 31, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. David Anderson

    God bless you, Bill Schneider, for telling the truth. Mike Huckabee has been marginalized and dismissed every step of the way by the liberal and conservative media because he does not have a ton of money. He is clearly the most qualified candidate in terms of intellect, experience, judgment, humanity, and courage. If he were to win, it woukd be the greatest political event since Abraham Lincoln rose out of obscurity to save the nation in 1860. We are at another crossroads in this country's history, and Huckabee is the man that we most need now.

    January 31, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. Shaun Hall

    Americans, Do ourselves a favor and do not allow the media to pick whom should be President. In case you did not notice, they were only allowing McCain and Romney to answer any questions. It was a sham. America is better than this.

    January 31, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. Linda

    Huckabee knows the power of the pulpit. He knows how to manipulate people beautifully. He came off sounding like the sanest one at last night's debate, but he meant to do exactly that, especially as McCain and Romney tried to outfox each other. The more those two quibbled, the saner Huck sounded.

    But that was his plan all along.

    Never mind that some of Huck's best buddies and supporters include Ken Copeland...the televangelist who thinks God wants him to be rich off the backs of his gullible supporters and who is now under investigation by the Feds, or Bill Gothard...religious extremist extraordinaire who believes that divorce should be banned (sort of like Huck's successful push for "covenant marriage" in Arkansas) and who taught that Cabbage Patch dolls were "the devil". Or that Huck is basically a Christian socialist who wants a religious nanny-state to run Americans' lives, beginning with a Federal ban on smoking. Never mind that he wants to amend the Constitution so that it will be more in line with "God's standards".

    McCain is my choice for president. He has the experience, the guts, the courage, the conviction, to hold that job, and he has shown that he's more than willing to work with "the other guys" to get things done. He has my vote...unless he makes the mistake of choosing Huckabee as his VP. Then I'll have to just sit out the election. I can't hang with Huckabee being that close to the presidency. This country isn't ready for a Christian socialist theocracy.

    January 31, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Cary Lacayo

    The debate proved that Mike Huckabee is the right choice, the only choice, based on the outcome of the debate. I agree with you in how Mccain and Romney stole the night but managed to demonstrate who and what there about in this race to the white house. I was not pleased with the moderation given by cnn employees were they seemed to close in on Mccain and Romney. Mike Huckabee made sence, was clear with his response to the issues, was not wavering with his views, was decent and respectful, showed leadership and strength, was very presidential in character. I hope people saw, the easy to see, difference between the three, eventhough, Mr. Paul gave his best efforts. People and the media seemed to have forgotten that Mike Huckabee was 3% from the win in S.C. to Mccain and if Mr. Thompson would have resigned those 60,000 votes he recieved would have gone to Mike huckabee. The media is in for a rude awakening come Super Tuesday with Mike Huckabee due to there creation of a two man race with the GOP. It showed that exact thing last night and it back fired bigtime....Hilary, if nominated should fear Huckabee the most, heck, her husband even agreed to that saying Huckabee has the most experience and his speaking strength in debating outranks the others and thats coming from Bill Clinton who was a great debater in his time....

    January 31, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. Kristi K. Arkansas

    Last night's debate just proved to me and my husband how stubborn and rambling that John McCain really is. He rumbled around alot on the issues (immigration, economy) If I hear the question on illegal immigration again, and all he ever talks about is "Securing the Border first". That is his only answer, EVERY TIME.... He's about as good as Hillary in spinning the questiion. Never says where he stands on the illegals here now.
    I'm a conservative and I cannot put my vote with him at all. He is the same old problem we have had in Washington. No wonder every political person seems to be behind him. They are all the same.

    After last night, My vote is with Romney.... I just hope Huckabee (nice guy) gets out soon for our Republican party. He will be taking votes away.

    January 31, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Donna B.

    Huckabee has my vote! I'm getting the word out and rallying around him. GO MIKE!!!

    January 31, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Amy

    Are you kidding me? Huckabee needs to hang up his hat and go home. A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCane....

    January 31, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Jeff


    January 31, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. Dave

    Thanks for mentioning the name Ron Paul in your article...oh wait. Nevermind.

    January 31, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  19. Jeff

    Huckabee dosent believe in abortion, he believes in fair taxes, he dosent believe in gay marriages, and he is the best canadate available!

    January 31, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. Frank Keller

    I've voted democratic in every election in my 53 yr life. I deduce that out of all candidates in this race on both sides, I only see two who are soundly based in the reality of our current times, & those two are Huckabee & Ron Paul. If those two were on the same ticket, I'd switch party & vote for them!

    I see their intelligence rankings as being:

    1. Ron Paul, 2. Huckabee, 3. Romney, 4. McCain

    This current "Lou Dobbs/Jerry Springer mindset" MEDIA INSTIGATED circus we're witnessing with the Democrats (not entirely their fault because of media) is equally despicable of both of them (although I much prefer Clinton), but even with them (& McCain & Romney), they're too busy with each other to attend to the *most important* issues *to Americans*, *not party*. Huckabee & Ron Paul are, & making the most sense of things too.

    Since the Republicans don't apparently like Huckabee or Ron Paul, I would highly recommend they hook up as a team & run on the independent ticket.

    We'd be looking at the next BEST prez & vice prez if they did. And to me it doesn't matter which of the two is prez.

    January 31, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. David Anderson

    to Annette: Mike Huckabee would never make a deal with Mitt Romney! Huckabee is a man for whom honor is everything. Romney is a man for whom money is everything. It is an insult to Huckabee to mention him in the same breath with Romney.

    January 31, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Dean

    I agree with this "moderation" fiasco.

    I've had three posts that seem to disappear. And no, I am not a Ron Paul supporter.

    January 31, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Yamaka

    Huckabee belongs to the religious conservative group of the GOP, while McCain is the moderate wing and Romney is the economic conservative of the GOP. Limbaugh, a very conservative, is correct in that the GOP is seriously fractured. If Huckabee withdraws, then the process will be more interesting.

    In the general election, McCain will lose on his remarks, "if needed, we will be in Iraq for hundred years" because nearly 65% of the voting population already decided that we should leave Iraq as soon as possible, which Hillary Clinton says for a long time.

    If Romney gets the nomination, then he would flip-flop his position and agree with the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, which would complicate Hillary's position.

    January 31, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Robin B. Pasadena CA

    Lets face it, McCain will not beat the Democrats, Romney may, Huckabee although forthright, won't because we don't want another "God appointed" President. We want someone with Paul's common sense, Romney's business sense, and dare I say it a more palatable President. Romney is very Presidential. McCain seems like an embittered old man. He will not win, in the end. Truth be told, even Republican's don't want a war for even 10 more years!

    January 31, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. tomdavie

    If I was the republicans, I would seriously consider funding Ron Paul to run as an independent. This will surely secure the election for the Repulicans. Ron Paul is awesome, and I would give him my vote if given a chance to win. Since it looks like Hillary is going to be PASTED by the media into losing the nomination, I can then vote for Ron Paul.

    January 31, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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