The GOP main debate which aired on the Fox Business Channel has finally concluded in Milwaukee and here is my post-mortem of said debate.
Before I evaluate each of the candidates, let me note the moderators on the Fox Business Channel did a much better job than the CNBC moderators late last month, notwithstanding Maria Bartiromo’s question to Marco Rubio about Hillary’s “excellent résumé.”
Rand Paul – He did land a punch against Donald Trump when he pointed out that TPP did not include China and also made a good case as to why Congress shouldn’t cede power to the President where it concerns fast track negotiation of trade deals. But he fared far worse against Marco Rubio when he challenged his child tax credit plan and against Carly Fiorina on Russian involvement in Syria and Ted Cruz on military spending. His penny pinching ways on military spending will simply not resonate with Republican audiences.
John Kasich – The Ohio Governor is probably the only candidate in the room who thinks the Fox Business Channel moderators were worse than CNBC. He was the only candidate who consistently complained about not getting enough time to answer questions. While he did put up a good argument against Trump on deportation plans when he challenged Ted Cruz on executive experience, Cruz flattened him. When he was asked about how he would balance the budget, he told people to go to his website. Kasich has not had a good debate performance since the August debate in his home state.
Carly Fiorina – She turned a forceful, passionate performance and directly challenged Trump on letting Vladimir Putin run roughshod over Syria. She sounded downright Thatcheresque when she said that socialism when government creates a problem followed by the government trying to solve it and in her concluding remarks that another Clinton presidency would corrode the character of the nation. The jury is out as to whether this will help her standing in the polls.
Jeb Bush – This was his best debate to date. He sounded more confident (especially when he said he would repeal all of Obama’s regulations), held his own against Trump on illegal immigration, and wisely avoided Marco Rubio. I don’t think there will be any more calls for him to drop out of the race, but it will take more than one debate to push him to the top.
Ted Cruz – He did not have as a strong a performance as his previous debate, but did fine although he could not say how his tax plan wouldn’t increase the deficit and raised eyebrows when he said he would not bail out Bank of America and its depositors if it failed. Although when Kasich challenged him on this, Cruz came out the better in the exchange. However, when he said that the GOP risks becoming the party of amnesty, he did not get the applause he expected. Although he was certainly right to say that most countries, including Mexico, do not tolerate illegal immigration. Just ask the Guatemalans.
Marco Rubio – This man is simply incapable of a bad debate performance. He is a paragon of sobriety balanced by occasional bluntness (he called Vladimir Putin “a gangster”), good humor and a good nature. Rubio also handled Maria Bartiromo’s silly Hillary résumé question with ease and overmatched Rand Paul when he objected to Rubio’s child care tax credit and plan to increase military spending. The $64,000 question is when (if ever) will his poll numbers climb?
Dr. Ben Carson – As long as Carson is a factor in this race, it might be awhile before Rubio’s numbers climb (the same could be said for Cruz and Fiorina for that matter). Carson showed a far better grasp of both domestic and foreign policy issues than he has in previous debates. Even if people don’t agree with everything he says, they still like him and that can take him a very, very long way in this race.
Donald Trump – I think Republican audiences are beginning to tire of his act. Trump was heavily booed by the audience when he said they didn’t need to hear from John Kasich and when he demanded to know why Carly Fiorina talks. He likened building a wall in Mexico to Israel’s security fence. But Israel does not have an illegal immigration problem. While he made a good point about TPP being like Obamacare, he made the mistake of stating TPP included China, prompting a correction from Rand Paul. The idea that Vladimir Putin should be allowed to run roughshod over Syria demonstrates an unserious foreign policy mind, as it will only continue to diminish American influence in the Middle East. It has been said that if Trump experiences a decline in the polls that the chief beneficiary would be Cruz, but that may be problematic if Carson doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see where Trump’s poll numbers go between now and the next debate.
Speaking of which, the next GOP debate takes place in Las Vegas on December 15th and will air on CNN.
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