Consider this a companion piece to last week's post on the Democratic debate.
Ten men who want to be the next Republican in the White House gathered Thursday in California for the field's first debate, carried on MSNBC. When it was done, some things became very clear:
•Rudy Giuliani was running hard for the Democratic nomination. You could almost feel the shriveling of his support among Republican primary voters. His shrugged answers to questions about Roe v. Wade and public funding for abortion in New York killed any chance of the ex-mayor becoming a GOP president.
•Mitt Romney was charming, warm, intelligent. Almost too nice to be believed. As a candidate he's the real deal. But his acknowledged flip on abortion and his apparent flop on gay rights make primary voters suspicious. They want to like Romney, but do they really trust him?
•Mike Huckabee exuded earnestness, especially when discussing his faith and the role it plays in shaping his decisions.
•Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore and Tom Tancredo shared one thing: no chance. They're Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel with better clothes.
(Not to say they don't have ideas that resonate. Thompson's welfare-reform work as governor of Wisconsin helped change the national landscape. Tancredo's hard line on illegal immigrants will be a factor in the 2008 race. But none of the eight names mentioned has a chance in hell of winning. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in Paul Tsongas land.
•John McCain acted like Bob Dole in 1996, only older and more cranky. He probably won some points among Republican primary voters, the only people who matter right now to a GOP candidate. But McCain's overall performance was too fierce. We half-expected him to batter Chris Matthews and admittedly were disappointed when it didn't happen.
Lingering impression: Ten white guys on a stage -- 11, counting the ghost of Fred Thompson. The diversity of the Democratic field stands out in stark contrast.