The ten Republicans running for their party's nomination for the presidential election have held their first debate, in California. Just as with the Democrats, who have Clinton, Obama and Edwards as the serious contenders, there are three Republicans in with a strong chance: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
Giuliani's edged ahead of McCain over the last few weeks, as a suddenly elderly-looking McCain struggles to make his resolutely pro-Iraq War stance sound sensible. But it was Giuliani's turn to come up with something unconvincing on a major issue last night, as he fumbled his way through an answer on abortion. With one of his lesser-known rivals claiming an end to abortion in the US would be "the greatest day in this country's history," the pro-choice Giuliani could only burble about how it should be up to individual states. The fact he hasn't bowed to right-wing party pressure to switch his views entirely is admirable (especially as he's Catholic, and could easily take an anti-abortion standpoint), but he's going to need to say something stronger to sound credible when the issue comes up again, as it surely will.
Talking of right-wing party pressure, a quick sidebar to demonstrate the somewhat extreme nature of parts of the debate. Three of the ten candidates (none of the main ones, but still) were happy to say from the podium they don't believe in the theory of evolution. At all. When that view's an accepted part of the political discourse, it's vital more moderate men like Giuliani don't veer to the right in a bid for support. Let's hope his lawyerly words on abortion don't signal exactly that.