Great debate performance by Huckabee. The focus group named him the winner. The FOX News post-debate poll showed him placing him far, far ahead of Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, and McCain.
The pundits are agreeing:
Washington Post: "You've just spent the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don't want you to start fooling them about mine," Arizona Sen. John McCain bluntly told Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
The clashes, in the early moments of a 90-minute debate, prompted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to say he wanted no part of a "demolition derby" with others of his own party. "What I'm interested in is fighting for the American people."
Townhall: Mike Huckabee is, indeed, a skilled debater. I think that he scored some points when he refused to attack the other candidates. It may be that McCain now needs to attack Romney -- or that Thompson now needs to attack Rudy. But I don't think Huckabee gains anything by going on the attack and becoming a "politician."
Redstate: Tonight's GOP debate was truly the Huckabee and McCain show. Huck demonstrated the same smooth, articulate, can-sell-snake-oil-to-a-merchant demeanor that has propelled him to where he is now: one of the Big Five that actually deserves to still be attending these debates.
David Brody: With Mike Huckabee, he was able to provide a nice mix of funny lines but more serious moments too. Here's one of his best funny quips of the night:
"The reality is it's a health crisis, and I would further say that one of the challenges we face is that a lot of the Democrats want to turn it over to the government, while the Republicans want to turn it over completely to the private insurance companies. I think the better idea is to turn it over to each individual consumer and let him or her make that choice. I trust me a lot more than I trust government or a lot more than I trust the insurance companies. And we've got a situation with 10,000 baby boomers a day signing up for Social Security, going into the Medicare system. And I just want to remind everybody when all the old hippies find out that they get free drugs, just wait until what that's going to cost out there."
A funny line but Huckabee needs to make sure he's not seen as the presidential comedian up there. Sunday night, he took strides to do that. He made sure to speak tough on terror, he refused to take part in the political bickering between candidates. And then he turned serious about Hillary Clinton:
"But I want to say this -- you've asked: What's the difference? No matter which one of us is on this stage -- and, look, I like to be funny, let me be real honest with you. There's nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president. Let me tell you why.
If she's president, taxes go up, health care becomes the domain of the government, spending goes out of control, our military loses its morale, and I'm not sure we'll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country's ever faced in Islamofascism.
We've got an enemy that wants to kill every last one of us. We cannot be soft. We must be strong. We'll sign crazy bills like the Law of the Sea Treaty and give away our sovereignty. And that's why, with all of the fun we're going to have talking about it, there's nothing funny about Hillary being president."
National Review Online: After the FRC summit, he’s the social conservative choice, and if he gets the nomination, Hillary won’t know what hit her. This guy can sell ice to Eskimos. Kept his momentum, and played against his "the funny one" typecasting with his argument, "there's nothing funny about Hillary Clinton as Commander in Chief."