The GOP debate last night was a lot to digest. We had a much better understanding of the candidates going into this debate than we did the first time, and we were on the lookout for notable responses to actions that have been making headlines.
We heard tales from candidates past, strong stances on the Iran deal and Kim Davis, insults about appearance, and much more. Last night’s debate was chaos overall. Not because of the candidates, but because of the moderators. CNN hosted the debate this time around, and did a poor job of keeping the candidates on track and reducing the immature mudslinging. It felt all over the place, with lack of direction, and it took over a half hour before questions were posed about real issues facing our country.
The beginning of the debate was the Trump show. Candidates were asked if they agreed or disagreed with Trump’s comments, and if they thought Trump would be able to control the nuclear weapons. It felt more like The Donald debate rather than the GOP debate. Luckily, John Kasich couldn’t take it anymore either and pointed out that voters are more interested in hearing the candidates’ stances on key issues. He’s right, we are. Whew.
Carly Fiorina was an addition to this debate, and with good reason. She was the breakout star of the early debate the first time around, and she more than earned a spot with the top tier candidates. It’s not necessarily that Fiorina has extremely opposing views to the other candidates, but rather her conviction and execution. She was able to take on Trump without stooping to his level, and perfectly articulated her stances, views, and ideas if she were president. She also rattled off key players in Iran and Russia and showcased an advanced understanding in foreign policy. As we remember from Trump’s radio interview last week, this is his biggest weakness. Fiorina was the clear standout of this debate.
Donald Trump did what he does best. He insulted candidates based on their appearances, accused them of being controlled by the money, and talked about his vast wealth. He has low lows and high highs. In response to Fiorina calling out his previous comments about her looks, he retorted but saying she is beautiful, a move that was surprising for him. He had some back and forth with Rand Paul and pointed out that he never attacked Paul on his looks, even though there was “a lot of subject matter to work with.” He was largely silent during the discussions about foreign policy, and didn’t chime in for about 30 minutes. Trump isn’t comfortable talking about anything other than immigration. His debate performance probably won’t hurt him in the polls though; his supporters seem loyal to a fault.
Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush stood out as front-runners of the debate. Rubio’s charisma and stern stance on policies helps him every time. He is a strong speaker and commands the room. Bush came back from a lackluster first debate, and was more prepared and pointed with his responses and answers to key questions voters have about electing another Bush. He stood out from his brother and father, and had a few standout moments.
Chris Christie did far better in this debate than the last. Last time, he staggered and left voters unsure of his stances on key issues. This time, Christie positioned himself as the adult on the stage, and the voice of the middle class. He articulated his positions much more clearly, which voters appreciate.
Ben Carson remained himself but staying out of the back and forth unfolding around him, and only spoke when completely necessary. He might have missed a few good opportunities for pointed words against Trump and other candidates, but he never took the bait. This could either help or hurt him. He could be overshadowed, or he can continue to climb towards Trump as his supporters appreciate his unorthodox approach to politics.
I think Rand Paul has to be crowned the loser in this debate. In his typical fashion, he came off as a schoolyard bully, attacking Trump every chance he could, but never took the opportunity to point out his own strengths. At this point, Paul comes off as the fly you continuously swat away from the pie but won’t give up.