This segment: Foreign Policy!

Giuliani: Is this the time to work with Russia on missile defense? No, we should speak softly and carry a big stick. We should think about expanding NATO geographically, shore up our ties with Eastern Europe free-market democracies to create a hedge against Russia. We should engage them economically, but have a military that is so strong no nation on the world would challenge it. That would send a message to both China and Russia to not mess with us down the road.
On the tension going on in Turkey right now:

Huckabee: Train and equip the Kurds to fight the terrorists in their midst. Try to persuade Turkey that they have nothing to be gained from making the situation increasingly hostile. Huckabee offers two very specific solutions to this problem, but only receives scattered applause. Why? I don’t think anyone in the room has any idea whether those are good ideas or not because they’re not sure what the issues are. But Huckabee sure looked like he knows what he’s doing.

Romney chimes in: The UN is failing to protect the world. We shouldn’t live in a “holiday from history.” We need a strong military, a strong economy, and strong families to protect ourselves.

Now for a series of questions on various issues.

Giuliani: Does the prospect of a nuclear Iran worry you more than going to war Iran? Rudy has a great response, and channels Reagan in the process. A nuclear Iran is more dangerous than going to war with Iran.

Thompson has a great laugh line that closes the debate.

Final thoughts:

Huckabee did exactly what he needed to do. He was funny, intelligent, clear as expected, and detailed (given his speech on Saturday) on foreign policy and social security.

Romney was strong. He seemed more personable for some reason than in previous debates, but watching the approval ratings while he was talking, I don’t think he broke through the ceiling and helped himself enormously.

Giuliani was also good tonight. Debating suits him. He’s still the cream of the crop–it’s not going to be any easier to beat him after tonight. Other than a minor stumble on education, Rudy was pretty flawless.

On the whole, this debate should be deeply encouraging to a lot of Republicans. These three candidates were all very sharp, very (dare I say?) presidential and may pose a more difficult challenge to the Democrats than a lot of people think. There may be some grounds for hope yet!

Update: In the debate wrap-up, Frank Luntz interviewed his focus group and three people said that they came in for Thompson, but they were most impressed by Huckabee. They made the Clinton comparison–unknown governor from Arkansas who stormed into the White House–and made it passionately. That’s the sort of enthusiasm Huckabee inspires in people. He may be the surprise winner out of this debate too.

Update 2:  For what it’s worth,  Huck essentially won the “text message poll” that FoxNews runs.  Ron Paul came in at 34% (I believe–I couldn’t find the numbers online), Huck had 27% and Giuliani was next with 11%.

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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.

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