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. J,tx

    McCain is old, we need someone new who can change things. Not have the same people from the past. VOTE RON PAUL08. WE NEED SOMEONE NEW.

    January 31, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. M. Lou Madison, WI

    With Obama, Hilary, McCaine and Romney acting like 2nd grade school kids, I have switched my complete support to Gov. Huckabee. We need a GROWN-UP to run this country. A grown-up who can talk to world leaders.

    While I have some disagreements with some of Mr. Huckabee's views, at least he is honest about them. His record as Governor proves he will not force his religious beliefs down our throats and will do what is best for this country. He transcends party lines. I would not be surprised if he offered Mr. Obama the Secretary of State or cabinet position. I trust him to appoint qualified, honest people to positions.

    The country is in a terrible mess, and we need real straight talk from an experienced leader. He is inspiring in that he can back up his words with action and experience. The more I see him, the more I like him and, most importantly, trust him to do what's best for the WHOLE country.

    All 4 "frontrunners" want the power of the presidency. They all lack the serious multiple qualifications needed for the rough job ahead. Huckabee wants what is best for this country. He can bring us together. I haven't voted Republican since Ronald Reagan. If Huckabee gets the nod (as he should), I will vote for him.

    January 31, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    For someone who is normally sharp, Cooper and the other 2 panelists did a pretty poor job of questioning the 4 remaining Republican candidates. I kept waiting for one of them to ask McCain "If he would insist the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks, and shouldn't there be timetables set for each of those benchmarks?" That would have ended the silly "timetable" standoff between McCain and Romney, but I'm guessing CNN chose to let it go since any debate that has a battle of words helps the network's ratings.

    I had hoped to hear more from Ron Paul, but the media (including CNN) have already decided who the two top contenders should be in both parties. Hence, John Edwards felt the need to suspend his campaign for president, and all the media seemed mostly concerned about was who he might endorse. They did the same with Richardson.

    I was mostly disappointed in the post-debate coverage when Cooper called Clinton's win and celebration in FL a "stunt". Over 1.6 million Democratics voted in the FL primary even though there were no delegates at stake. They wanted to be heard, and 856,944 chose Clinton. That was more votes than any one Republican candidate. This election isn't about what the media wants, or how their "experts" try to spin it. It is about the people who come out to vote, to be recognized, to be heard. Those people should be celebrated, not referred to as a political "stunt".

    January 31, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Mike S., Nawlins

    McCain will be the nominee, that is now certain. Deal with it.

    January 31, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Gene

    Oh! See them run! The most liberal Republicans run to endorse the most liberal of them all, John McCain. Guiliani and now Schwarzenegger! That ought to speak volumes to the Republican Party!

    January 31, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. Alice

    I agree with others, this was supposed to be a debate? If so, it was a two-person debate of McCain and Romney. I do agree with this article that Huckabee came out on top. He needs to get more attention from the mainstream media! He's got 10+ years of experience as governer. He is genuine. He's for change. He's smart. He's a great leader. He's got it all... except more campaign funds and air time. Hopefully voters will be smart and that lack of attention won't matter. As far as Paul, I don't agree with him on most things but give him some talk time or don't invite him. Huckabee won Iowa, came in a very close second in SC and will probably win lots of southern states and maybe even Texas – he should have been given much more talk time. I don't understand all these McCain endorsements from other politicians. Sorry, I respect him for his military experience but overall McCain is old news and washed-up. Remember he tried to run against Bush and lost? And look how low Bush's approval ratings are now. REPUBLICANS NEED A FRESH FACE, and I think Huckabee is the best person for the job. For president, I'm for Huckabee as a first choice and Romney as a second. I'm about ready to just turn my TV off with all this focus on McCain and zero on Huckabee.

    January 31, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. Margaret

    Okay, so Ron Paul does make a lot of sense on certain issues, but you really have to look deeper into the Libertarian stance to realize how really dangerous he would be as President. I, for one, prefer to have an FDA or Social Security to protect citizens from poison meat and provide for retirement. Also, having been a former large business owner, I think the idea of the market dictating political policy is perhaps the most loathsome facet of the Libertarian ideology. There ARE reasons why no Libertarians have ever made it to the level of final party candidate.
    That being said, there are many ways in which Ron Paul does provoke meaningful and necessary debate on issues that would otherwise be ignored.

    January 31, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. Bruce I

    I am from SouthCarolina and I am not a DEM or REP. After watching the GOP debate on lastnight, My views on Maccain have changed. He seemed to be a little cockey and arrogant.To me , he is Bush#3. He will not bring the DEMS. and REPS. together. All that he has going for himself is the war. I think he and Clinton are in the same boat. If either of the two wins their party's nomi. , I will not be voting in November.

    January 31, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  9. Val & Herb Young

    As Canadians we are very interested in the 2008 Presidential election taking place with our wonderful neighbour to the south. We made an attempt to watch the Republican debate last night and found it frustrating that, for the most part, only 2 of the 4 candidates were pernitted to comment on the issues.

    We personally would have liked to have heard much more from Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Paul. In the past we have found Anderson Cooper to be fair and objective. This perception changed with his blatant disrespect for both Mr. Huckabee and especially Mr. Paul. We sincerely hope that they both do well in the Super Tuesday Primaries. Best wishes to both Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Paul.

    January 31, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. Adi

    Mr Anderson Cooper,

    I think it was a shame how you conducted the debate last evening.
    1. The last time I checked there were 4 candidates running for the Republican nomination, and as a impartial orchestrator of a debate, it was your duty to award equal time to all the speakers. You failed in that regard.
    2. As the orchestrator of the debate, you failed to co-ordinate the debate so that the audience could get the maximum benifit. You did not stop the bickering that was taking place between Mr McCain and Mr Romney. On the other hand, you did not allow Mr. Paul to express his view points. What Mr. McCain was offering was his usual rhetoric, stuff that he has repeated over and over again. Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Paul were offering radically new ideas, but you did not allow them to complete their thoughts.
    3. You should remember that you play a very important role. The public is placing their trust in your ability to enable us to learn about their candidates. I hope that in future you would perform to our expectations.

    January 31, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. Jilly

    Huckabee won? The man who could not identify what country is on Pakistan's eastern border?

    That "debate" was a farce. CNN should be ashamed.

    January 31, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Ellie, WA

    I am voting for Romney because of his positions on issues, but I have to agree that Huckabee had a great debate last night despite his lack of air-time. He was very laid-back and sincere. I felt that McCain and Romney were both trying too hard to say what they thought we wanted to hear...probably because they have more to lose than Huckabee does. Similar to others who have posted, I thought it was rude of Anderson Cooper to ask Ron Paul and question and then interrupt him three words into his answer to move on to the next candidate.

    January 31, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. David - Oregon City

    McCain will not be the nominee, that is for sure. Deal with it!

    January 31, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. tehlulz


    Weren't there four candidates in this debate?

    Maybe I'm just confused, or you're a moron.

    January 31, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. KY

    Ron Paul is the best fit for the situation our nation is in now. It's just too bad he was unable to get any time to "debate" last night. McCain is too arrogant. It appears as if he has become extremely cocky and it is not appealing whatsoever. I'm sorry, I don't trust him one second to be able to run the country!~

    January 31, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Joe Brender

    Your analysis doesn't include Ron Paul. Did he miss the debate? Did he call in sick? Or are you ignoring him.

    January 31, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. Samantha

    Yes McCain will be the nominee for sure, you deal with it David!

    January 31, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. 8gern

    Did you happen to notice the other guy? Second from the left? A doctor and member of the House. The only person who runs a platform on following the Constitution of the Unites States. Did you happen to see him? His name is Ron Paul. Why is the media world trying to dismiss him?

    January 31, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. Jennifer

    It was very clear that voting for McCain would be four more years of the same- lies, arrogance and completely ignoring what the American Citizen wants! His immigration policy would destroy America!! He sounds more and more like a left-Democrat.

    I am a 22 year registered, voting Democrat who would love to vote for Mit Romney in November. This Tuesday I'm going to vote for the Democrat that would more than likely loose to Romney.

    All Republicans that care about American soveriegnty– please vote for Romney on Tuesday. All other votes for Huckabee and Paul unfortunately would only help McCain

    January 31, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. Benita


    McCain will not make it if you consider all the comments made by viewers about his smugness and very obvious disdain for all the other candidates. His demeanor is just another dose of what we have been force fed for the past 8 years. We don't need it, don't want it.

    He's a flip-flopper, he's not clear on how he will affect change or on his time-lines.

    Samantha, I know you are very emotional about your candidate, but he lost a lot of ground here. Sorry.

    January 31, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. Marlene Dickey

    I was leaning to McCain til last night. Forget it. I just sent my first donation to Mike Huckabee. McCain was arrogant in the way he kept that smirking grin going. He was staunchly adamant that he would not accept Romney's explanation of the timetable. Even I, a political novice, understood what he said. McCain rolled his eyes at Paul. Paul may not be on the top of the list but the man makes a lot of sense and should still be listened to. I've never "seen" McCain's arrogance until now. I will not vote for him when Virginia's turn comes around. BTW, when did CNN decide for us who are undecided that there are only two candidates.

    January 31, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  22. Jennifer Bell

    After last night's shameful arguing – not debating...McCain verified why I do not support him. The debate solidified my vote for Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee is the only candidate, besides Ron Paul, looking for true change. He kept his professionalism and leadership intact during the debate and showed a strong standing for change in Washington and how he would like to help Americans not just fellow politicians in Washington. Huckabee 08!

    January 31, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. Jason CT

    I sure hope T. Rex jumps into the race. That way, McCain won't be the only dinosaur on the ballot. As you can see, I'm quite pro-fossil...

    Either way, the McCainosaurus will have my vote. He'll get Medieval on the Axis of Evil! It doesn't matter if it takes 100 years or more! Go McCainosaur, go!

    January 31, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. independent for obama

    huckabee did well. I love this guy as a person but hate him as a candidate. He really is just a sweet guy.

    January 31, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. Jeanie Andrew

    Yes I do agree, Huckabee was the BIG winner. I have no idea what would posess
    republicans to cast even one vote for Mc Cane. He is a clone of bush. What kind of mess is he. If I was a republican my vote would be for Huckabee. And he is my
    second choice to Clinton.

    January 31, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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