And the loser
Republicans cast their debate Sunday night, when they
weren't feuding with one another in their most direct
and contentious exchanges yet.
Former New York
mayor Rudy Giuliani used humor to hit Clinton,
exclaiming, ''You gotta be kidding!'' when asked if he
differs with her on abortion and gay rights.
''There are two
things I agree with Hillary Clinton on. First of all,
we're both Yankee fans,'' he said to laughter.
''Well, wait a
second -- I became a Yankee fan growing up in New York.
She became a Yankee fan growing up in Chicago,'' he said of
the former first lady, who moved to New York to run
for the Senate in 2000.
quoted her as saying, ''I have a million ideas; America
cannot afford them all.''
''I'm not making
it up,'' he said to more laughter. ''No kidding, Hillary
-- America can't afford you.''
and conversational, Giuliani reinforced his image as a
front-runner much as he does on the campaign trail, by
disparaging the former first lady as much as he
criticizes other Republicans.
''He's got that
riff down well, and it was really funny and very
effective,'' Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. ''Don't
underestimate the value of experience in these forums
-- he's obviously a bright man and has gotten very
The New York
senator makes an easy target among Republicans, despite, or
perhaps because of, her lead in polls against GOP
contenders. The audience of more than 3,300 party
faithful cheered at every Clinton line in the debate,
which was sponsored by Fox News Channel and the Florida
on Hillary in this group -- hell, that's like a
five-foot basket. You're just dropping the ball in,'' said
David Johnson, a Tallahassee political strategist and
former head of the Florida GOP.
dominant in polling in the early voting states of Iowa and
New Hampshire, challenged Clinton's experience.
''She hasn't run
a corner store. She hasn't run a state. She hasn't run a
city. She has never run anything,'' the former Massachusetts
applause line of the night, delivered by Arizona senator
John McCain, also came at Clinton's expense. McCain, a
foe of congressional spending, mentioned Clinton's
effort to spend $1 million on a Woodstock Museum to
commemorate perhaps the most famous counterculture event of
friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and
pharmaceutical event,'' McCain said.
''I was tied up
at the time,'' he deadpanned, and the audience rose,
applauding the reference to McCain's years as a Vietnam
prisoner of war.
governor Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist known for his
folksy one-liners, said: ''Look, I like to be funny. There's
nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president.''
When they weren't
focused on Clinton, the candidates were emphasizing
their conservative credentials, putting Giuliani and Romney
on the spot.
senator Fred Thompson said: ''Mayor Giuliani believes in
federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary
cities. He's for gun control. He supported Mario
Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, against a Republican who
was running for governor, then opposed the governor's tax
cuts when he was there.''
mentioned Romney's 1994 campaign against Massachusetts
senator Ted Kennedy, when Romney cast himself as a defender
of a woman's right to abortion, an issue on which
Romney says he has changed his mind.
I didn't know there was any room to the left of Ted
Kennedy,'' Thompson quipped.
confident and easygoing, and quick to defend himself
when Giuliani questioned his own conservative credentials.
Giuliani called Thompson the ''single biggest
obstacle'' in the Senate to curbing frivolous
responded by saying it's a matter of federalism, the concept
of power divided between national and state
government. ''Local issues belong at the state level.
Most states have passed tort reform,'' he said.
managed a graceful response to a question about whether, as
some critics have suggested, he is lazy. He described his
trajectory from teenage father to factory worker to
federal prosecutor and Watergate counsel and finally
to the Senate, and he mentioned his help since then
shepherding Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts'
nomination through Congress.
''If a man can do
all that and be lazy, I recommend it to everybody,'' he
said to laughter and applause, adding that he is a father of
five children, two of them under age 4. (Libby Quaid,