Here are my thoughts on the GOP main debate in North Charleston, South Carolina which has just concluded on the Fox Business Network.
John Kasich – He basically sung his greatest hits of the ’90’s. For Kasich everything is riding on New Hampshire. Unless he finishes second or a very strong third, I expect he will drop out.
Chris Christie – The New Jersey Governor was his usual assertive self. He called Obama “a petulant child” and later said he gave the criminals the benefit of the doubt and embraces lawlessness. Somehow I’m sure he didn’t tell Obama this during Hurricane Sandy. Christie made several barbed comments about Rubio and Cruz when he said he hated “interrupt a debate on the Senate floor”. He cut both of them off when they weren’t forthcoming about answering a question about entitlements. However. Christie lost an exchange with Rubio when he claimed he never gave money to Planned Parenthood. In fact, Christie gave money to PP in 1994. It was a long time ago, but he did give them money.
Marco Rubio – He would make his first impact when he interrupted an exchange between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz saying, “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV.” Rubio won his exchange with Christie on Planned Parenthood (please see above) and challenged Cruz on his tax plan (claiming it is a VAT). When Cruz responded, Rubio pointed out that Cruz has flipped his position on corn and ethanol subsidies and had said that Edward Snowden had performed a public service. By contrast, Rubio called Snowden a traitor. When Cruz tried to reply he ended up being booed by the audience. Someone should tell Cruz and Christie that if they go after Rubio in a debate they are going to come out on the losing end. Trump wisely treaded carefully around Rubio. At this point, Rubio remains the alternative to Cruz and Trump.
Donald Trump – Things started off rough during his exchange with Cruz on the birther matter. Trump did himself no favors when he a) invoked Laurence Tribe, a leftist Harvard law professor and b) when he bluntly said he only cared about Cruz’s citizenship status because he was doing better in the polls. However, Trump would trounce Cruz on his “New York values” comment by invoking 9/11. It is the most eloquent Trump has been in the entire campaign.
But Trump wouldn’t be Trump if he didn’t insult someone. When Jeb Bush pointed out that imposing tariffs on China would result in trade retaliation, Trump called him a weak leader. But Trump is stronger now than he was at the beginning of the debate. Maybe you can insult your way to the presidency.
Ted Cruz – As mentioned a moment ago, Cruz got the upper hand on Trump on the birther matter when he pointed out the Constitution hadn’t changed but that the polls had changed. But whatever gains he made were lost when Trump took apart his “New York values” remark. Things got worse for Cruz when debated Rubio on his tax plan. Could this debate hurt Cruz’s numbers in Iowa? If it does it will be to Trump’s benefit. But there’s another debate in Iowa in two weeks from now.
Ben Carson – He had moments of eloquence and humor. But you know things are over when he has to tell people, “I have a tax plan too.” While he might hang around into the South Carolina primary his peak ended long ago.
Jeb Bush – He gets better with every debate. Bush was strong on guns and wasn’t afraid to take on Trump with regard to his Muslim travel and immigration proposal and later on tariffs on China. The latter exchanged prompted Trump to insult Bush. But Bush came off as equally insulting when he referred to Rubio and Cruz as “backbench Senators.” Well, Bush is a backbench presidential candidate.
As mentioned earlier the next GOP debate takes place two weeks from today on January 28th. The candidates will gather in Des Moines and will air on Fox News. The debate takes place three days before the Iowa Caucus vote.