As a testament to his suddenly strong position in the battle for the nomination, he showed off all of his worst traits and still won! Alternately cranky, elderly, caustic, equivocating, inarticulate, passionless. But he flexed his ability to intimidate Romney as needed, usually with an arch one-liner that was 3/5 mean-spirited and 2/5 light gag. Made little effort to defend his own tax record or negative Florida attacks, and failed to drive a positive message. Still, was treated by the questioners and his rivals as the clear frontrunner and the inevitable focus of the room. With Giuliani out of the race and on his side, and Romney struggling in perennial second place, McCain calmly expressed his principles, agenda, and stock statements with unhurried confidence. As always, the frontrunner's grade is based in part on maintaining the pecking order. This debate was a non-event, so McCain wins.
by Mark Halperin
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