Republican Presidential Forum on Fox News in Manchester, N.H. included the top five contenders. Giuliani, Thompson, Huckabee, Romney and McCain, from left to right on your television screen. Chris Wallace was the moderator.
Again, Huckabee and McCain did a bit of tag team confrontation on Romney in response to his negative ads against them playing in the state. Romney calls them record comparison ads. Considering how close together the candidates were sitting in the room, it had to be somewhat uncomfortable to get almost literally in the face of the opponent on your left or right. Talk about invading personal space.
McCain pointed out that in his 24 years in Congress, he has never asked for or received an earmark, pork spending, for his state. He reminded the viewers that he stopped the Pentagon deal for a new piece of equipment that would have cost an unnecessary $2 billion dollars. And, he said he stands firm on his usual view of tax cuts only in tandem with spending cuts.
Romney and Huckabee had a testy back and forth about tax increases each brought about in their respective states while governor. Huckabee refused to admit the extent to which he raised taxes in Arkansas. At one point in an exchange with Romney, Huckabee went completely wimpy and told Romney that he would only respond to Chris Wallace, the moderator, and not to him asking questions. Then Chris Wallace asked him the same question Romney was trying to get Huckabee to answer. The question concerned illegal immigrants and their children. Huckabee was all about Arkansas being a sanctuary state and giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses and their children college educations on the taxpayer's dime.
Thompson said he is the only candidate with a plan to save Social Security. He would index it to inflation not wages as it is now, reducing the cost of living increases at the time of retirement.
Huckabee still advocates the Fair Tax system.
Giuliani touted overhauling the welfare system in NYC and tied it to a work program. There were 670,000 fewer on welfare benefits when he left office.
McCain said he received the message from the American people last summer over illegal immigration and pending legislation. He said the first priority is sealing the border, then a temporary worker program and immediately deporting the 2 million people that Homeland Security Sec. Chertoff said must be deported as they are violent convicted criminals.
Towards the end of the forum, Chris Wallace asked McCain the age question. On Inauguration Day, he will be 72 years old and Wallace asked him if he thought that was a negative. Huckabee piped up and said, wait a minute, you don't want to go there, I've met his mother. McCain's mother is 95 years old and as alert and spry as a woman 20 years younger. Quite an inspiration, that one.
After the forum, a focus group was polled for thoughts. All of the participants were registered Republicans in NH and were still undecided. Their clear winner was Romney. Most thought Huckabee lost because he was waffling on the more difficult questions from the start of the forum. They thought Thompson seemed the weakest. Most thought Obama would be the Democrat nominee and that Romney could win if the election was between the two of them.
Tonight at midnight the voting begins in the NH primary. Midnight. Those would be some motivated voters. To get out in the cold at that hour to vote, well, I think I'd wait a bit later into the morning. More power to them.