Not Dead Fred: Bloggers seem to agree that Thursday night's GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was the liveliest yet, not least because tail-ender Fred Thompson came out swinging—against Mike Huckabee, mainly. Asked about Sunday's near-confrontation between a U.S. naval cruiser and Iranian speedboats, Thompson replied: "I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing." Things don't look so hot for Romney and Giuliani, though.
While Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters wants to know "who put the vitamins in Fred Thompson's oatmeal," Ann Althouse was less impressed: "So Fred's good when riled. But do we want a President who needs riling to be good? I know you can say that somehow Fred would be good behind the scenes, and he only needs riling to be good in front of the camera, but don't we have to judge him by what we see?"
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo live-blogged the debate: "Hadn't noticed this before. But on more than half his questions, Fred Thompson runs out of things to say before his time has run out. And then he goes into like a free association cliche fugue. Check him out next time he draws a question. (He's also hit the tanning booth, but that's admittedly less substantive.)"
But James Joyner at Outside the Beltway doubts Thompson has the juice to go much further: "I don't see Thompson recovering from his lethargic start, either. Even in South Carolina, he's no higher than fourth in any of the recent polls. Will last night's performance catapult him to the forefront? Especially after what figures to be another poor finish in Michigan? I rather doubt it. It seems much more likely that his blows will wake Southerners up to the fact that Huckabee is indeed a social and fiscal liberal and thus help McCain."
Daniel Casse at Commentary's contentions says Rudy Giuliani was the big loser: "[A]t this point, Rudy is trying to climb above the fray so that if things remain uncertain after South Carolina (where he is far behind), he becomes a fresh force in Florida. But tonight, he seemed, at best, 'me too' He seconded McCain on the surge. He seconded Thompson on Reagan. He seconded Huckabee on Israel. Rudy's problem tonight, as it has been throughout the campaign, has been the absence of a noisy, distinctive agenda."
Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard's Campaign Standard thinks John McCain gave with one hand and took away with the other: "It's not just McCain's biography that makes him a credible commander in chief. He really understands military matters, and that separates him from the field in both parties. But there was also the other McCain, the one who seems to love to annoy conservatives for no apparent reason. Can anyone tell me why he opted to dance through the climate change minefield on his own volition?"
At the New Republic's Stump, Noam Scheiber was impressed with Huckabee's performance: "I also thought Huckabee held his own when questioned about a Southern Baptist Convention statement he'd endorsed back in 1998, about how a wife should 'submit graciously to the servant will of her husband.' Huckabee started with a winning comment about how everyone says we should keep religion out of presidential politics and yet he constantly gets questions about his religion. Then he explained that this was a tenet of his faith, not an expression of his politics, and that the full commandement is for both husband and wife be the servants of one another. 'It's not a 50-50 split, but a 100-100 split,' he said."
Despite controversy regarding some racist newsletters that Ron Paul has circulated, in terms of the debate, Andrew Sullivan "thank[s] God for Ron Paul. … No one else, except McCain, copped to the GOP's rank betrayal of fiscal conservatism, limited government, prudent foreign policy and civil liberties." No love for Paul from Hot Air: "Real terrorism and real attacks on the US just don't enter into Paul's calculus. It's always the US plotting something nefarious as far as he's concerned, which incidentally is one more piece of evidence that he had more of a hand in those newsletters than he's letting on. They're consistent with the paranoid thinking he exhibits now."
At Politico, Jonathan Martin notes that Huckabee has brought on Jim Pinkerton as a campaign adviser to help strengthen the candidate's policy positions: "Huckabee has risen to become one of the GOP's top presidential contenders almost completely by virtue of his own rhetorical talents and retail political skills. But he has written most all of his speeches, and his bare-bones campaign has been woefully lacking in terms of policy ideas. Pinkerton will help fill that void."