I considered giving you the clip of the opening Rudy/Mitt/Fred/McCain “real Republican” free-for-all but when push comes to shove this is much the bigger selling point for the GOP next year. (Just ask Mary Katharine.) Being the un-Hillary is no small distinction with 50% of the public claiming they’d never vote for her, and the candidates realize it only too well: watch as an engraved invitation from Chris Wallace to Hillary-bash becomes a platform for the most memorable lines of the evening, culminating in a standing ovation for McCain’s killer. He’s been using variations on this line for 25 years, often to even more devastating effect. To wit:
From the start, McCain was attacked as an opportunist and a carpetbagger. His high-priced Washington consultants, big war chest and television ads did nothing to alter that image. At a debate with his three Republican primary opponents [in 1982], he took aim at the issue and killed it dead. “Listen, pal,” he replied to a challenge to his status as an Arizonan. “I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.” The issue didn’t come up much after that.
Frank Luntz’s post-debate focus-group verdict: Giuliani and Huckabee, who are clearly the class of the field at these things, did well while J-Mac, his zinger notwithstanding, fell flat. Oh, and no one’s voting for Ron Paul, which I guess proves that they’re all in on the conspiracy.
Note: The clip has been edited for brevity.