Michael Cooper and Michael Luo covered the Republican debate Thursday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C. - but apparently not from South Carolina, judging by the lack of a dateline. The theme? Faltering Fred Thompson lashes out in a desperate bid to salvage his campaign.
"Fred D. Thompson tried to salvage his faltering presidential campaign at a debate Thursday night with a barrage of sharp attacks on the 'liberal' policies of Mike Huckabee, the fellow Southerner whom he clearly sees as a rival in the South Carolina primary.
"The performance by Mr. Thompson, which including several pointed one-liners, capped a debate that showed the altered terrain of the Republican field as it moved beyond contests in Iowa and New Hampshire."
The Times portrayed Thompson as an aggressor and Mike Huckabee turning the other cheek.
"Mr. Thompson then lit into Mr. Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher and Arkansas governor who won the Iowa caucus, for wanting to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, for supporting what he called 'taxpayer-funded programs for illegals' and for wanting to sign a law restricting smoking. 'That's not the model of the Reagan coalition, that's the model of the Democratic Party,' he said."
Huckabee indeed favored free in-state tuition for illegal immigrant as governor of Arkansas.
"Mr. Huckabee, for his part, responded with trademark humor. 'The Air Force has a saying that says if you're not catching flak, you're not over the target,' he said. 'I'm catching the flak; I must be over the target.'"
Maybe the Times is peeved at Thompson for this crack he made at the debate (which the Times did mention):
"You can tell that the news is good coming out of Iraq because you read so little about it in The New York Times."
Cooper and Luo clearly favored John McCain's liberal views on immigration.
"Mr. McCain championed a controversial Senate bill that would have offered a pathway to citizenship to the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, provided they cleared certain hurdles.
"Asked what he would do as president about illegal immigrants in the country, Mr. McCain said he would make sure to secure the border but did not back away from his views. While those who committed crimes would be deported, he said, others would be addressed in 'as humane and compassionate a way as possible.'
"In response, Mr. Romney put forth a hard-line stance on the issue, arguing that the illegal immigrants in the country should be given some time to arrange their affairs but that all should be required to go home and 'get in line with everybody else.'"