My personal assessment of the GOP debate – Main Event:
First and foremost; having only 6 candidates on stage really opened up the debate. Without the unnecessary distractions of has-been, wannabe candidates crowding the stage and chewing up valuable time, the remaining field was able to engage the issues and each other; which is what led to the donnybrook that erupted.
Marco Rubio (Talking time – 10:38) Badly needed a good performance to offset the debacle of the New Hampshire debate, and he got one. Good answers on tax policy by focusing on the fact that the money belongs to the taxpayers, including during a robust defense of his proposed 25 percent corporate tax rate. Following an attack from Trump on George W. Bush, Rubio had a fantastic defense of President Bush when he said, “I thank God that it was George W. Bush on 9/11, and not Al Gore.” Came out aggressive, but effective. Taking advantage of the absence of his nemesis, Chris Christie (who took the bridge out of the race), Rubio seemed much more sharp and focused. Really good close. Edges out Cruz for the win by exceeding expectations after his NH debacle.
Ted Cruz (Talking time – 14:45) made a great case for himself as the strongest conservative on stage, and finally nailed Trump as a liberal. While many in the GOP field have worked to try and expose Trump’s liberal past, in the 9th debate, Cruz was able to connect the dots illustrating the liberal characteristics of Trump, exposing his record of supporting left wing politicians. Fantastic answer on replacing Scalia on the Supreme Court, when he said that “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would reverse the Heller decision,” which would eviscerate the Second Amendment. Cruz initially seemed to have been caught a bit off guard from a deceitful attack by Rubio – trying and failing once again to pin Cruz as complicit in the Gang of 8 fracas – but responded brilliantly, pointing out that Rubio had gone on Telemundo and said he wouldn’t repeal Obama’s planned amnesty. When Rubio claimed that Cruz could not have understood what Rubio said on television, since “he doesn’t speak Spanish,” Cruz responded… in Spanish. Fantastic close – almost Reaganesque – highlighting the critical importance of the Supreme Court, following the unexpected death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Jeb Bush (Talking time – 11:15) has gotten significantly better as a debater over the course of this race. Bush enjoyed the benefit of a South Carolina that is friendly to the Bush family, and it showed from the beginning, when the live audience at the debate cheered loudly at his introduction. Bush finally seemed able to get under Trump’s skin at will. When Trump launched attacks against Bush’s brother, George W., Bush kept calm and carried on, while Trump seemed not only to lose his cool, but actually become angrier.
John Kasich (Talking time – 10:03) Kasich was fine but not a standout. Did the GOP electorate a great service when he openly defended his expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under Obamacare. Thanks for reminding us, Kasich. Once again, he took to his self-declared role of “I’m the adult in the room,” acting as if he were not part of the process to make a political decision as part of the debate. The Ohio governor wants all of us to know that he’s not interested in making distinctions – we should all be friends. Kasich spent the night dodging and weaving the fight and the argument, trying to “calm down” the debate and asking his fellow candidates to have a “kumbayah” moment.
Donald Trump (Talking time – 15:38) was unhinged. Screaming at the top of his lungs, ranting and raving every time he was attacked, regardless of who did it. This rage and his natural orange hue caused him to start blending into the background (as seen in my image above). Absolutely lost it when attacked by Cruz on his liberal record and his financial support of Pelosi, Schumer, Reid, et.al, exposing Trump as a non- conservative. With the moderators too cowed to take control, Trump cut loose, interrupting nearly everyone on stage. Trump came out as a 9/11 truther in attacking the Bush family, especially George W. (for which he was booed loudly) – and stating that the claims of WMD in Iraq were lies – in military-friendly, Bush-friendly South Carolina. Big mistake. Bottom line: Trump blamed 9/11 on Bush, defended Planned Parenthood and eminent domain abuse.
Ben Carson (Talking time – 8:42) should drop out and soon. He did nothing to stop his free fall in the polls. His burst of popularity earlier this fall faded almost as quickly as it emerged, and his performance last night again illustrated why. Too many questions and doubts about his knowledge of global issues and national security experience remain. He was a non-issue in the debate, and it seems voters are ready to move on. Carson is an incredibly likable man with an exceptional personal history. His life story enables him to offer an entirely different perspective, but he continues to fade before our eyes as a viable candidate. Good guy; not presidential material.