My personal assessment of the GOP debates – Main Event & Undercard combined:
Carly Fiorina proved conclusively that she should not only belonged 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. Passionate. She looked presidential, well-informed, non-establishment and tough, commanded the stage and makes the idea of an American Margaret Thatcher very real. In short; she crushed it.
Marco Rubio Excellent performance. Memorable, passionate and smart answers to questions that allowed him to really distinguish himself. Very clear and detailed about his foreign policy answers. Polished, eloquent and substantive answers that will remain in the conscience of primary voters for a long time.
Ted Cruz was almost invisible, but shone when given the opportunity. His speaking style creates a contrast with other candidates, as it comes across as studied, rehearsed and polished. Cruz is so smart, he’s considered every possible question, and has calculated the best answer, and it shows. He must show more fire, passion and extemporaneous-ness (is that a word?). Did best when outlining his approach to solving issues.
Jeb Bush served with distinction as governor of Florida, but his actions since that time have done little to bolster his conservative credentials. He did far better than in the first debate, showing more energy and passion, especially when going after Trump. Did
Bobby Jindal came out fighting. Very sharp on the issues. Very tough attacks on Trump. Passionate and well-considered answers. Did a good job of focusing the moderator questions back on the actual, underlying issues. Must do more.
Scott Walker has been languishing in the polls. First: DO NOT wear your campaign logo, which is a stylized American flag as an ACTUAL American flag pin. That’s something Obama would do. He kind of got lost in the debate, but did well when able to get a word in. Needs to find a way to drive the conversation.
John Kasich does not seem to understand his big-government conservatism won’t work away from Ohio. His attempt to get “above the fray” came across as pandering and choreographed; obviously bothered by the lack of attention. His appeals to policy preferences using pseudo-humility can drive people away.
Rand Paul did little to distinguish himself. He wanted to come across as the “small-government conservative” on the stage, but didn’t do enough to accomplish the goal. Awkward moments of name-calling and fighting with Trump, followed later in the debate by acknowledging agreement with Trump on the issue of vaccinations. He does himself a disservice by coming across as aloof.
Lindsey Graham was the surprise of the undercard debate. Came out strong on foreign policy issues, funny and self-deprecating when appropriate. Very sharp on the attack, especially against Santorum.
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 came across as petty when he got upset about the Trump – Fiorina back-and-forth.
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.
Ben Carson faded into the background. Halting, tentative, seemed uneasy. 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.
Rick Santorum continues to remind people why he hasn’t won an election since 2000. His support of the minimum wage, his insistence on manufacturing jobs, and his inability to demonstrate leadership on immigration were liabilities.
George Pataki why is he here? Is anyone actually supporting him? He’s clearly interviewing for a cabinet position.
Donald Trump failed miserably. Petty, antagonistic and irascible. His answers, which touch a disgruntled, angry and frustrated nerve in the GOP electorate made for mildly annoying soundbites, which generated boos. He offered nothing of substance.