Of course, "the people" aren’t really paying attention yet, so their view of the field will be filtered by what they read, which means, I suppose, that Romney will be marginally helped by his performance and Giuliani marginally hurt. None of the second-tier candidates is likely to profit greatly by accounts of his performance, though I expect that cherry-picked clips will find their way to their websites, just as other cherry-picked clips will show up on YouTube.
Giuliani has gotten a lot of grief for his abortion answer. Here’s Byron York’s account:
It started when host Matthews asked a simple question. “Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for America?” The other candidates made quick work of the answer.
“Absolutely,” said Romney.
“A glorious day of human liberty and freedom,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.
“Yes, it was wrongly decided,” said former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
“Most certainly,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“Yes,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Then the question came to Giuliani. “It would be O.K.,” he said.
“O.K. to repeal?” asked Matthews.
“It would be O.K. to repeal,” Giuliani said. “It would be also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent and I think a judge has to make that decision.”
“Would it be O.K. if they didn’t repeal it?” Matthews pressed.
“I think the court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it. We’re a federalist system of government and states can make their own decisions.”
That exchange boiled down to Giuliani saying, It’s O.K. if Roe is overturned, and it’s O.K. if it’s not. Later, in the Spin Room, Giuliani adviser Bill Simon was asked if that constituted a solid position on the issue.
“I think what he was saying was that the fact that Roe v. Wade was overruled or not overruled, it could happen either way,” Simon answered. “What he’s in favor of is appointing strict constructionist judges.” Such judges, Simon explained, might overturn Roe, or they might not.
But is that a position on the issue?
“I don’t think he was wishy-washy at all,” Simon continued. “In fact, he has a very well thought-through position. It’s very nuanced. It’s not something that you can say in one sound bite in 15 seconds.”
I’m sure it looked pretty bad on television, but, properly explained and framed, it’s not a bad answer. It is, rather, an inarticulate version of the "no litmus test" position that Republicans always offer when Democrats accuse them of vetting judicial candidates solely on the grounds of whether they’d overturn Roe (which is a case of the pot calling the kettle black). What Giuliani should have said is that he would love to see Roe overturned and the issue returned to the states, but that he can’t impose any sort of single-case litmus test in the judicial selection process. If it’s improper for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask about overturning Roe, it’s equally improper for the President to do more than get a good understanding of how potential nominees would approach cases. Instead of communicating this appreciation of the judicial nomination process, Giuliani seems to have communicated a kind of indifference, which is what I fear he feels. He deserves to have been hurt by his performance, though there’s still time for him to recover.