My personal assessment of both GOP debates – Undercard and Main Event:
Carly Fiorina proved conclusively that she should not only have been on the main stage, but may well be worthy of a spot on the GOP ticket. Possibly even at the top. Sharp. Smart. Supremely confident.
Rick Perry needed to do much better to win the debate. He was more than adequate with his solid answers, but did little to “wow” people. He must distingush himself more by offering more dynamic engagement. He mostly places high due beating the low expectations and early concerns related to 2012.
Bobby Jindal did well by taking a bold stance on issues particularly important to him, especially in regard to social issues and achieving victory in the war on terror. I like Jindal, but didn’t expect much from him. It was a pleasant surprise.
Rick Santorum was adequate and stuck to a few talking points, limiting the good moments he could have had. His answers were a bit stilted and scripted.
Lindsey Graham continued deflecting to his favorite and safest topic – national security, while staying away from those things that are obvious, glaring vulnerabilities, like immigration and outreach. He also exuded the most “establishment”
Jim Gilmore said nothing of consequence and his performance was forgettable. It became glaringly obvious early on that this is one last attempt at relevance, as he added almost nothing to the conversation.
George Pataki has me scratching my head. Why is he even in this race? Possibly just to be able to say that he ran for POTUS once? His stance on the pro-life issue is so discordant with the rest of the field and the grassroots it makes no sense. His accomplishments (from more than a decade ago) are limited to an inconvenient area of the country.
Marco Rubio Excellent performance. Memorable, passionate and smart answers to questions that allowed him to really distinguish himself. Very eloquent and killer one-liners that will remain in the conscience of primary voters for a long time.
Ted Cruz was the calm, cool methodical debater who found success at Princeton, but this is the major leagues. Here, the judges are not impartial, nor given to erudite, intellectually sound arguments. He must show more fire and passion. Did best during his closing remarks when he discussed what he would do his first day as POTUS.
Scott Walker could have done more to pull away from the field, but kept his answers far too short to distinguish himself. The answers he did give however, were solid and well-considered. He’s obviously been thinking these issues through in a serious way. He has nowhere to go but up.
John Kasich – did one of the best jobs of trying to connect with the base while also attempting to empathize with those not yet committed or ambivalent. His campaign’s core is basically a remix of compassionate conservatism. Benefited greatly by being on his home turf: not sure if his big-government conservatism works away from Ohio.
Chris Christie New Jersey conservatism is not the same as grassroots conservatism across the nation. While he distingushed himself in NJ and the northeast, he showed that his experience and credentials need polishing and refinement to take his message national. He won his fight with Rand Paul over foreign policy and collection of meta data.
Mike Huckabee communicated his points well. As a former Baptist preacher, his cadence and speaking style lends itself easily to answering tough questions. Did he say anything that would lead people to the conclusion that his qualifications and experience are POTUS material? Remains to be seen.
Rand Paul His answers were good, but may have come across as far too Libertarian (Big L) for anyone not already in his camp. He started well by attacking Trump early, but then did little elevate his status. His fight with Christie came off looking petty and angry.
Donald Trump tried to look and sound like a distinguished leader, worthy of the debate stage. He failed miserably. His answers, which touch a disgruntled, angry and frustrated nerve in the GOP electorate made for briefly interesting soundbites, but he offered nothing of substance.
Ben Carson was almost completely ignored, and said little that was memorable in the way of substance. His lines were heartfelt and noteworthy, but they said little about how he would govern or lead, especially considering he’d never been elected to office.
Jeb Bush served with distinction as governor of Florida, but his actions since that time have done little to bolster his conservative credentials. Little he said on stage helped. As the candidate ranking 2nd highest in the polls, he had the most to lose and it seemed he did exactly that. In any other year, a candidate with his resume, experience and pedigree would be not only the frontrunner, but the presumptive nominee. This cycle, Jeb’s resume, experience and pedigree are all suspect and require extensive defense and explication. This night did little to assuage worries.