The Republicans debated this afternoon.  Whether anyone who isn’t a political wonk watched is an open question (I’ll cease being one any day now………any day!).

Romney looked great, but then, he doesn’t have much to lose in Iowa these days.  Whether he did enough, though, to start his come  back in Iowa remains to be seen.  And the fact that we’re talking about a Romney “comeback” suggests he hasn’t had the best run of things.  Even though he has had his best two weeks of the campaign, Huckabee has a 16% lead in Iowa.  The question isn’t whether Huckabee will win Iowa–the question is by how much.  Anything over 15% destroys Romney’s chances.
As for the other candidates, only Thompson managed to help himself with a gruff and blunt response to a request that candidates raise their hands.  It was a moment reminiscent of his response to Michael Moore, a response which fueled his rise.  It was a moment when we stopped and thought, “What might have been.”

The only other notable fact is that Giuliani seems to be increasingly irrelevant to this campaign.  The news the last two weeks has been all Romney and Huckabee, which makes it feel like a two-man race no one ever expected.

Huckabee, however, did what he had to do.  The format helped him avoid any direct confrontations, which means it goes down under the “missed opportunity” category for everyone else.  Of course, Huckabee has been the story all day, and will still be the story tonight.  He apologized to Mitt Romney after the debate for his now-infamous gaffe, and he said his “New Year’s resolution” would be to more carefully monitor everything he says.  As Deacon at Powerline notes, this should put an end to the matter.

In short, even though Romney was probably at his best, Huckabee comes out ahead from this debate.  He has solidified his spot among the front-runners in this campaign, and come January 3rd, will almost certainly verify that position with a win in Iowa.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Comment

  1. Anything over 15% destroys Romney’s chances. I wonder what you mean by this comment, Matthew. A win for Huckabee in Iowa will not help him win New Hampshire, and though it will give Huckabee a financial boost, he’ll still be far behind Romney in his ability to finance the campaign in SC and Florida. I don’t see Romney folding no matter what the Iowa result. As much as I like Huckabee, money usually makes the difference, and Romney has deep pockets.

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