And the Winner of the GOP Debate Is...Hillary Clinton!

This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

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Towards the end of yesterday's debate for the Republican presidential field, Mitt Romney used one of his canned lines he'd obviously been waiting to use. In response to a question about supporting the eventual GOP nominee, no matter who it is, Romney said, "[I]n terms of supporting these guys, I've come to know these people now over these debates.... This is a lot like 'Law and Order' -- it has a huge cast, the series seems to go on forever, and Fred Thompson shows up at the end."

Thompson responded, "And to think I thought I was going to be the best actor on the stage."

As Homer Simpson would say, "It's funny because it's true." Romney's right, Thompson's campaign is shallow and meaningless; and Thompson's right; Romney is a phony who'll say anything to get elected.

Watching the GOP field for two hours, one is reminded of just how impressive the Democratic field is. No one could possibly learn anything from these debates. The Republican candidates want to cut taxes, cut spending while investing in all of their favorite causes, argue inexplicably that federal coffers swell as a result of less revenue, and defend an indefensible Iraq policy.

Oh, and attack Hillary Clinton as if she were already the nominee.
Giuliani, who makes Clinton a frequent target on the campaign trail, accused Clinton of trying to "put a lid on our growth."
Poking fun at Clinton's proposal for a $5,000 bond for newborns, he said it would come "with her picture on it."
Giuliani said, "I challenged her. She has backed off that. She has a new one today. This one is, she's going to give out $1,000 to everybody to set up a 401(k).The problem is, this one costs $5 billion more than the last one."
Making it clear he expects Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, Romney said, "I can't wait to talk about the fact that I spent my life in the economy.... I can't wait to debate with her, because I've done it. She's just talked about it."
Indeed, in this sense, Clinton was clearly yesterday's big winner. The Republicans weren't just preoccupied with her; they were practically obsessed. Giuliani was asked about the lower tax rates applied to private equity firms. Asked if that was a fair policy, he said, "The leading Democratic candidate once said that the unfettered free market is the most destructive force in modern America." Clinton didn't say that, but more importantly, it was symptomatic of the larger problem -- much of the GOP field has decided it would rather attack Clinton than answer questions.
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