Each candidate addressed the audience for a maximum of ten minutes. No one was brilliant, and several were actively terrible. Here's my estimation of how they stacked up. (Click here to see the results and here to find out what a straw poll is.)
- Pat Buchanan The only candidate here who really knows how to give a rousing speech. The hall loved him, though few would ever vote for him. Memorable line: "If I'm president, I'm the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, right? ... The first thing I'd do is turn to Bill Clinton and say you have the right to remain silent."
- Gary Bauer Soft-spoken but effective. His tribute to Ronald Reagan brought the hall to its feet. The best of social conservatives. "Campaigns aren't supposed to be about how much one guy has raised and another guy has inherited. Campaigns are supposed to be about our futures."
- George W. Bush Much less impressive in an arena setting. His lines were elegant (who writes them?) but he made no real connection with the audience. "America's strongest foundation is not found in our wallets. It is found in our souls."
- Lamar Alexander Ever competent, never thrilling. "We need a contest because this is not a horse race. This is not a football game. This is the biggest job in the world."
- Dan Quayle Emphasis on family values. "The Clinton-Gore administration started off as the Woodstock of 1969 ... It ended up in the Woodstock of 1999, trashing our values, trashing our ideas and trashing the White House which is not theirs to trash."
- Elizabeth Dole Miss Perfect Platitude. Her speech takes the daring position that telling the truth is good. "Integrity never goes out of style. It never goes out of style."
- Alan Keyes Despite his rhetorical gifts, the weakest of the true believers. The consensus is that he's lost his marbles--his microphone was cut off when he didn't stop at the end of his allotted ten minutes. "We are coming to the end of the most disgraceful and immoral presidency in the history of this country."
- Orrin Hatch Senate oratory doesn't carry across a big room. He sounds hoarse and is barely audible. "Al Gore ... climbed 14,000 foot Mt. Ranier, right to the top. He carried 65 pounds of gear on his back. If he thought that was heavy, wait until he campaigns next year carrying a 230-pound president on his back."
- Steve Forbes Fiasco! Forbes starts with terrifying indoor fireworks and a release of hundreds of balloons. Supporters of opposing candidates pop them for the first half of his speech, making it inaudible. Lesson: Next time, release balloons at the end. "The power of these Washington elites won't be tamed, bent or broken by a candidate who relies on pollsters and tutors to tell him what to think. Only an independent outsider can break the selfish grip that Washington has on our national life."