In the early debate, unlike last time, there was no clear winner. Some said Graham won, but it certainly was very junior varsity. Basically a scrum. There was a great deal of substance, but both Graham and Santorum could have been more respectful. But again, there was a good deal of substance, and for the millions watching, they got to see that Republicans do have good ideas, even if those four, two senators and two governors, were not the best ones to explain and implement them.
On the big stage, the story of the night was once again Carly Fiorina. She explained clearly what she wants to do in the Middle East: arm the Kurds, support Israel, and scare the living daylights out of Iran. She was clear about what she wanted, while also being inspiring and believable. She took on Trump very well, although she didn’t beat him, (so far nobody has) although she did force him to say that she has a beautiful face, which is the closest he has ever come to apologizing.
Fiorina also laid out an economic plan as well as a tax-reform plan. One is left wondering why Hewlett-Packard ever fired her. However, on Fiorina, we must remember that while many pundits believe she won, last time they thought Rubio won, and he has gone nowhere. The polls, including Drudge, showed Trump as a clear winner.
As for Trump, he didn’t hurt himself, but he did not control the show like he probably would have wanted to. He didn’t say a great deal of substance, but he has repeatedly said that he isn’t very concerned about the debates, so his campaign plan seems to be going ahead like he wants it to.
CNN’s one massive mistake of the night was their constant ignoring of Ben Carson, who, while polling second in the polls, got less much less talking time than Trump, Bush, and Fiorina. He did get off one fantastic line when he said that Trump was an okay doctor. He’s not hurt by the debate, but not helped.
The clear loser in the debate, however, was Jeb Bush. He came across as arrogant, angry at Trump, entitled, and confused why anyone would take Trump seriously. He may have great plans, but he talks about them like everyone should just trust him, he’s knows what he’s doing, almost like he’s been bred for this. Which goes back to the age-old problem of Jeb’s last name. He once again sounds like he thinks he should have been coronated.
Marco Rubio once again did well, laying out his plans, while at the same time sparring a bit with Donald Trump. Not hurt terribly by the debate maybe even helped a bit.
Chris Christie also did very well, with his fantastic opening lines about asking the camera to be taken off him and put on the audience, and asking them to raise their hands if any of them thought that their children would be better off than they were. No one raised their hands. He also got in good jabs at Carson, and some laugh lines. He comes out as winner, but one who is unlikely to get much press for his good debate due to how crowded the field is.
Walker did nothing more than okay, as his campaign continues to sputter, he needed a ragingly awesome debate, and got a mediocre one. He isn’t likely to make it past South Carolina if he doesn’t do something soon.
Huckabee did poorly, not because he had gaffes or sounded confused, but because, again, he couldn’t drive the conversation, he had little of great substance to say, and isn’t eve likely at this point to make it to the first Caucus unless he does better than he is doing right now.
Kasich did poorly. He continues to try to be a moderate Republican in a year when the party has shown clearly it wants no such thing. The only reason that his statements are not being hounded and bashed and Donald Trump is not ripping his face off for his statements is because he is going nowhere in the polls.
Ted Cruz said some things of substance, but he must learn how to drive the news cycle and cause his opponents to mention him to get more time if he wants to emerge as a clear winner in the debates.
And lastly, Rand Paul. He had a terrible night, getting off few applause lines or any great memorable statements. His campaign is nearly done, and it doesn’t look like he can kick start it. He came out of the gate at the debate getting punched by Trump, who said he didn’t deserve to be on the stage. If his downward momentum continues, Trump won’t have to repeat that line, because come next debate, he won’t be.
To sum up, it was a great two debates, with generally good moderation, save for the fact that Jake Tapper let Fiorina interrupt him too often, he should have been firmer with her, and that Carson was not given as much talking time as he should, given his place in the polls. It seems entirely possible that the reason for that was he is not a firebrand, and his way of talking does not make for the most exiting television.
We saw eleven highly capable people with real opinions and ideas on how to move America forward on Wednesday night, and at least six or seven of them have a really good chance to be the next President of the United States. None of them are under five investigations for mishandling government secrets, (Hillary) or has such disregard for the American people that they won’t even comb their hair, (Sanders), or has such disregard for liberty that they will charge you a tax when it rains, (O’Malley). Whether you agree with these men and woman on everything or not, it was a proud night to be a Republican.
Andrew C. Abbott