I've stayed up way too late watching both debates in full, and it was quite fun.
REPUBLICANS: The Republicans went first, and boy did they go after Mitt in a big way. I particularly enjoyed the format ABC employed with the GOP -- I really felt I got some kind of sense of these people.
Mike Huckabee - I thought he really shined, looked like the only non-hysterical person on the stage, and, when asked to describe what principles he would abide by as President, recited verbatim from the Declaration of Independence ("We hold these truths to be self evident...."). The other candidates just talked about strength and power. He generally stayed out of the fray, sounded thoughtful, and sounded out hope in saying he thinks the U.S. can get a reasonable energy policy in 10 years (I was thinking that we got a man onthe moon in that amount of time, so why not). And - he was the first to draw blood on Mitt (I think he was the first).
Rudy Giuliani - I'd place him in second - only because I thought everyone else sounded so bad. He sounded very sober when discussing immigration, and got a few good zingers in on Mitt. He sounded goofy, though, on healthcare, and his insistence that U.S. foreign policy has nothing to do with how people might be inspired to act against us seems just knuckleheaded.
John McCain - I like generally what he says on immigration and torture. He got some good zingers in on Mitt. But not much else there tonight.
Mitt Romney - on the defensive most of the night, and couldn't seem to keep a coherent line of attack or policy going. He sounded good on healthcare -- he did, after all, pass a healthcare plan while governor. But man, the embracing of George Bush can't be good. And what a sourpuss when he told Huckabee "we can't do energy in 10 years". That's a visionary for you.
Ron Paul - to his credit, he kept the fight up on his points on the nexus between U.S. foriegn policy and its repercussions - even when all of the GOP candidates were simultaneously smirking, laughing or attacking him. But he's positively incoherent on just about everything else.
Fred Thompson - not even worth talking about. Good jowls, I suppose.
On the whole, realizing that I'm biased here, it just seemed to me that four adults walked into the room when the Democrats started. Each one of them handled themselves well, seemed passionate on the issues they cared about, and generally looked like professionals - a stark contrast from the hysterics exerted during the GOP session.
Hillary Clinton - If I have to pick a winner, I'd say it was Hillary, although not by a wide margin. I thought her answer on Pakistan was the best answer I've ever heard her give. It set a good tone for her, and actually gave some teeth to the "experience" argument she keeps talking about. She had a couple of these, and I thought she gave one impassioned response about how she is the one who has the capacity to effect change, not the others (my wife disagrees with me on the efficacy of the response, I thought it was good, she thought it shrill). She also pointed out some of the progress Bill achieved. She did what she needed to do, and that was present her case.
Barack Obama - Also very good, looked presidential, didn't really make any mistakes, and looked confident. He didn't try to repeat his Iowa speech, didn't take any of the bait offered to him by Hillary, and did a good job in teaming up with Edwards to keep the downward pressure on Hillary going. I like him a lot, and his message to Hillary that "words matter" and "inspiration matters" is right on.
John Edwards - Fiery speeches, lots of rhetoric that change doesn't come when you accept money from the interests that favor the status quo, etc. Best moment was when he was talking about the fire in the belly, and how the crusade for change is personal to him.
Bill Richardson - well, not so good. When you're talking about negotiating with the USSR, sounds like we've got a little bit of a foreign policy problem.
Overall, while I have my strong preferences, I felt like I would be comfortable with any of the Democratic candidates for president - and that's not a bad thing. The GOP, however, scares the heck out of me.
Time for bed and good night!