TRANSCRIPT: ABC News/Facebook/WMUR Republicans Debate

But George, take a look back now at the Republican debate. What were your key thoughts?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the predicate was set early on that Mitt Romney was going to be the center of this debate and on the defensive. And here's one of the moments that mattered very early on. Mitt Romney was talking about his position on the war, and Mike Huckabee interjected.


ROMNEY: Don't try and characterize my position. Of course, this war has...

HUCKABEE: Which one?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Clean shot. A very clean shot by Mike Huckabee. And Diane, I counted up. These guys on the stage do not like Mitt Romney. He was attacked by Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain, Mike Huckabee. He was the center of the debate even though he's not the leader anymore.

SAWYER: But in the politics of it all, can being the center of the debate in itself be a kind of advantage? And he had a chance to address things such as what he did on health care in Massachusetts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's going to be the question for viewers coming out of this, but he was on the defensive all night long. I think it was a tough night for him.

John McCain stayed out of a lot of the debate, but he was put on the defensive on the issue that's been his Achilles heel, immigration, and whether or not his plan was amnesty. He and Mitt Romney were going at it on that.


MCCAIN: ... not amnesty. And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole -- your whole fortune one these attack ads, but it still won't be true.

GIULIANI: May I make a...

ROMNEY: No, no, no, no. I get a chance to respond to this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.


ROMNEY: I don't describe your plan as amnesty in my ad. I don't call it amnesty. What I say is -- and you just described what most people would say is a form of amnesty.


MCCAIN: There is no special right associated with my plan. I said they should not be in any way rewarded for illegal behavior.

ROMNEY: Are they sent home? Are they sent home?

MCCAIN: They have to get in line behind everybody...

ROMNEY: Are they sent home?

MCCAIN: Some of them are. Some of them are not.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Every second spent talking about immigration for John McCain is a bad second. This is the issue that made his campaign collapse last year, and he doesn't want to be talking about it.

I do think, Diane, that Fred Thompson had a terrific night. I mean, this is the Fred Thompson we used to see as an actor on television. He was confident. He was funny. He was well informed. The question is, is it too late to matter?

SAWYER: We were talking earlier about the fact that he's not really campaigning in New Hampshire, so he got to spend a couple of days maybe catching his breath...

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly right.

SAWYER: ... when the others didn't.

OK, let's go right now, because in a few minutes George will handicap the Democratic debate about to begin. But we want to go to our political pros in the spin room, as we said, the room where everyone comes afterwards to try to change the headline in the morning.

And let's begin with senior political correspondent Jake Tapper. He's covering the Huckabee campaign.



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