1. Jim Geraghty, National Review Campaign Spot: “Winner: Thompson. This performance was so commanding, I wanted his last answer to echo back to the lights in the back of the auditorium, blow out all the lamps and spotlights, for the theme to â€œthe Naturalâ€ to play, and for him to trot around the stage in slow motion while sparks showered down in the background.” Jared has to appreciate the reference.
2. Erick at RedState: “Fred Thompson owned this debate. He owned it. He dominated.”
3. John Hawkins, at Right Wing News: “1) Fred Thompson (Big Winner): He was energized, funny, gave good answers and just tore Mike Huckabee up. This may have been Fred’s best debate yet.”
4. Stephen Hayes, at the Weekly Standard blog: “Clear winner? Fred Thompson. He was commanding, funny, articulate. His rat-a-tat-tat answer deconstructing Mike Huckabee’s record was incredibly effective – a good actor can certainly memorize his lines. But Fred was good off the cuff, too. He does, at times, seem uninterested, especially when others are talking. He won the debate, but those cutaway shots don’t help him. Still, Thompson has to have made strides among conservatives who are not yet sold on John McCain. He could have done more to engage McCain directly – he did so once, but it was almost passive. Fredemption?” (Bill Kristol also called Thompson’s performance “most improved” and labeled tonight’s debate the best of the campaign season thus far.)
5. Over at National Review’s The Corner: Rich Lowry, K-Lo, and Mark Levin unanimously score tonight’s debate a Fred victory.
6. And take this through the Hugh Hewitt filter: “Fred had a great night, Mitt a good one and Rudy did fine as well.”
This is just what Fred needed heading into the do-or-die South Carolina primary next week: a grand slam performance, one that took a big shine off Mike Huckabee and set him apart as the clear choice as the strong consistent conservative candidate. With the wacky chaos of this whole primary process, just about anything could happen. And after tonight’s debate, a Fred comeback seems a much more plausible scenario than it would have just a day ago.