- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This weekend’s Republican and Democratic debates in New Hampshire reinforced themes that have emerged since the Iowa caucuses. According to the latest polling compilation by Real Clear Politics, Republican John McCain has a nearly five-point advantage over his closest rival, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama has pulled nearly eight points ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton. It was clear heading into the ABC debates on Saturday and the Fox News Republican forum on Sunday that Mr. Romney and Mrs. Clinton were in the most precarious positions, needing strong showings to bolster their flagging campaigns after defeats in Iowa.

On the balance, Mr. Romney and Mrs. Clinton gave solid performances, but it is unclear whether these will stem the tide that is currently swelling toward Mr. McCain and his decades of national security experience and the salt-of-the-earth populism offered by Mike Huckabee. And Mrs. Clinton is having a rough go as she reckons with the enthusiasm and idealism embodied by Mr. Obama. (We’ll all know whether Mrs. Clinton’s teary eyes helped with voters come Wednesday morning.)

In Saturday’s Republican debate, Mr. Romney’s opponents took turns on his “flip-flops” on social issues and his campaign ads. Mr. Romney showed viewers that he is no paragon when he challenged Mr. Huckabee Sunday night on Fox (“[Y]ou make up facts faster than you talk,” the former New England governor said to the former Southern governor).

Mr. Romney rightly accused Mr. McCain of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, a charge that Mr. McCain flatly denied. We, of course, beg to differ with Mr. McCain; amnesty is amnesty, no matter how cleverly packaged.

Rudy Giuliani, for his part, blamed Ronald Reagan for enacting the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that granted amnesty for some 3 million to 4 million illegal aliens. However, Mr. Reagan is hardly to blame. The bill contains strong border and workplace enforcement measures that Mr. Reagan’s and subsequent administrations failed to stringently enforce.

Among Democrats, three of the top four candidates offered strong rhetoric on national security, with John Edwards vowing to capture Osama bin Laden and Mr. Obama denouncing the Bush administration for what he believes is misplaced anti-terrorism priorities. Mrs. Clinton proposed a plan for ensuring the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

The debates were lively and informative snapshots of the race. Today’s New Hampshire primary will be as well.

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