GOP Candidates Debate in South Carolina, but Look Ahead

GOP candidates appeared outshined by Fred Thompson in S.C. debate last night.

ByABC News
January 11, 2008, 6:15 AM

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C., Jan. 11, 2008 — -- Nothing on the debate stage in this first-in-the-South primary state seemed to change the dynamics of the race for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday evening.

However, that is not to say we didn't learn things about the current state of play. Arizona Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney are focused on their New Hampshire rematch coming up in Michigan. Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee are in a battle for Southern champ in South Carolina. And Rudolph Giuliani sees McCain as a potential threat.

First and foremost, Thompson is apparently still running for president and almost looked like he wanted to win. The former Tennessee senator has said he is drawing a line in the sand in South Carolina and that was clearly on display during the debate.

Thompson, who delivered a strong performance, took on Huckabee, a fellow Southerner, by unloading a slew of memorized opposition research about the former Arkansas governor's record. "This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future. On the one hand, you have the Reagan revolution. You have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security."

"On the other hand, you have the direction that Gov. Huckabee would take us in. He would be a Christian leader, but he would also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies. He believes we have an arrogant foreign policy and the tradition of, blame America first. He believes that Guantanamo should be closed down and those enemy combatants brought here to the United States to find their way into the court system eventually. He believes in taxpayer-funded programs for illegals, as he did in Arkansas," Thompson said. "That's not the model of the Reagan coalition. That's the model of the Democratic Party."

Huckabee used what has now become a frequent retort whenever he is attacked. "If you're not catching flak, you're not over the target. I'm catching the flak, I must be over the target," Huckabee quipped.