The Lower-Tier Blues

As the Republican primary debates trudge on, second-tier contenders are still emerging from early campaign darkness. But while this break in the clouds gives hope to a couple of candidates — it sets back even further those who have yet to stand out. How many more debates can Jim Gilmore, Sam Brownback and Tommy Thompson participate in before they fade-out?

Cong. Tom Tancredo — as he had to — pushed hard on immigration policy. The spotlight on immigration reform has been a lucky break for Tancredo’s campaign. His talking points are strong but arguably some may be over the top. Still a single stand out issue is better than none. Minds wander when Gilmore and Brownback speak and as much as Tommy Thompson attempts to command attention the most he can get is through his cracks at the name game with Fred Thompson.

Ron Paul is still repeating his desire to pull out of Iraq. “We’ve had four years to do this and it hasn’t worked. The biggest incentive for them [Iraq] to take upon responsibility themselves is just for us to leave.” Even worse now he is defending Iran and answering that the most pressing moral issue facing America today is “the acceptance just recently that we now promote pre-emptive war.” Paul’s kooky anti-war rhetoric reminds us why he is a congressman who could never be president.

Duncan Hunter had several moments in last night’s debate that could promote his lower-tier status sooner rather than later. His experience in foreign policy, national defense and his stance on immigration has previously been impressive but Hunter stepped up his game last night through talking points.

“If you had your way with immigration who would fill the jobs that no one wants?” asked Tom Fahey of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Hunter referred back to the employment “sweep” in a meat packing plant in Iowa.

“There were American citizens lined up the next day to get their jobs back at $18 bucks an hour” said Hunter. “This is a disastrous bill — John McCain is right this is a national security issue.” Hunter then said the bill he sponsored — which the President signed in October — mandates 854 miles of double fence. “Not that scraggily little fence you show on CNN all the time, Wolf, that people get across so easily. If they get across my fence we sign them up for the Olympics.”

Hunter gracefully reached out to a New Hampshire voter who had lost her brother in the War in Iraq. “I want to let you know my son Duncan the day after 9-11 joined the Marine Corps., quit his job, did two tours in Iraq and he’s in Afghanistan right now — first I want you to know that its worth it, what he did was worth it.”

Worth — a sentiment that is frequently trampled by the liberal media and extremely important to the morale of our serving soldiers and equally when thanking and remembering the fallen. Hunter gets the upgrade.

Mike Huckabee had another impressive performance last night. Despite the fact that he was asked minor questions on issues that are not eminent to a presidency i.e. evolution and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. Huckabee navigated through it well (his response was, aren’t we going to talk about immigration?)

All and all the debate produced little news apart from the realization that its time for some of the lower tier candidates to call it quits. Huckabee and Hunter show potential, but if the others can’t cut it now — when and if Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich enter they don’t have much of a chance.