My personal assessment of the GOP debate – Main Event:

Marco Rubio Excellent performance. Memorable, passionate and smart answers to questions that allowed him to really distinguish himself. His confrontation with Jeb Bush may have delivered the needed mortal blow to the former Governor’s campaign. His epic take-down of Hillary Clinton and her mainstream media toadies, publicly calling her a liar may have earned him a spot on the ticket. His polished, eloquent and substantive answers to clearly biased and dismissive questions will remain in the conscience of primary voters for a long time.

Ted Cruz did extremely well. Showed intense fire, passion and aggressiveness. His confrontation with the CNBC debate moderators was the moment of the night. His public shaming of the moderators and their inane, embarrassing questions had conservatives across America leaping from their seats, cheering. Cruz was also very strong on entitlement reform, job creation, and his tax plan. Finished a bare-razor’s-edge second to Rubio only because of lack of speaking time.

Chris Christie turned in a somewhat strong performance, especially his honest assessment on entitlement reform, linking the inevitable collapse of the Social Security and Medicare systems to the broken promises and failures of big government. However, he didn’t do enough to distinguish himself from the competition in the lower half of the rankings. His moment of the evening came when he ridiculed and shamed CNBC moderators absurd question about fantasy football.

Carly Fiorina was very good. She didn’t dominate as she had in the previous contests, but continued to showcase he strong grasp of the issues and building a strong case against the big-government vision of Hillary and the Democrats. By offering herself as Hillary Clinton’s “worst nightmare,” she upends the left’s narrative of the “war on women”. Did well, but probably not enough to recapture the energy and excitement she generated after the first two debates.

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? Nope. He would be perfect as the mayor of a small southern town.

Ben Carson won’t gain votes from this performance. 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. His surge in the polls will be slowed and stopped.

Jeb Bush his successful tenure as governor of an important state was completely overshadowed tonight by a petty fight with Marco Rubio. In spite of his expertise on policy and impressive record of conservative accomplishment, he remained on the outside looking in during the entire debate. He had the least amount of speaking time of all, and delivered no memorable lines that weren’t awkward – “a big warm kiss”? Tonight will be remembered as the beginning of the end for his campaign.

John Kasich could have had a better night. The House pushed through sweeping budget legislation (with Democrat votes), and Kasich tried to capitalize on it as an accomplishment of good governance. He fails to understand that this was anathema to the conservative grassroots, further distancing himself from the base of the GOP. His combative tone betrays an unseemly petulance.

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. He comes across as somewhat disengaged and distant. His performance was unmemorable and this may well be the last main-stage debate for him.

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.


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