Winners and Losers – GOP Debate Part 2
In reviewing the activity of the 2nd GOP debate held at the Reagan Library, it seems that the moderators wanted to have a partial free for all at the beginning of the debate to draw viewers to the telecast for a ratings bump. If that was the plan, the first half of the three hour debate did not disappoint. Trump, Bush and candidates at the low end of the polls took multiple shots at each other while the less gregarious candidates (Carson, Walker, Huckabee and Cruz) waited for the dust to settle.
Here is my take on the winners and losers from last nights event:
1) Carly Fiorina – her entrance to the big kids table did not disappoint. Carly was very dynamic, had a good grasp of foreign policy, and was the most successful in attacking Trump while deftly dodging counter-attacks from him. Only problem was her delivery – she seemed too angry at times – there was no off button. Even when she described her devastating loss of their son to drug overdose, what would have been a warm fuzzy “heart sleeve” moment from most candidates seemed forced and angry from her.
2) Marco Rubio – clearly the best trained debater in the field, Rubio gave smart answers in a disciplined manner all evening long. Rubio is the one political insider who has the ability to project himself as an outsider without seeming to toot his own horn.
3) Jeb Bush – Bush needed a win desperately to stay relevant in the conversation as the campaign shifts in the fall where the nomination is truly won and lost. The highlights of the evening is when he and Trump tussled over a number of issues including immigration. While Jeb may not (and probably will not be the GOP nominee), last night’s performance keeps him in the game while other struggling candidates fade away over the next few weeks.
4) Ben Carson – Carson had the most to lose last night. He had a choice – to stay above the fray or to wade into it. Carson chose the stay within himself. He provided solid answers to the questions asked of him and did not take the bait of attacking Trump on the vaccination issue while jabbing Trump with the line “he is an okay doctor.” At some point, when the field narrows to four or five people, Carson is going to have to become more assertive; the question will be will he take advantage of the opportunity or let it slip away.
1) Donald Trump – although he held his own with the punches and counter-punches, Trump looked like a fish out of water when the mood the debate shifted from a free for all wrestling match to a serious discussion of policy. The question for me is when he drops out of the race, not if. It probably reads strange to read it now. Simply put, if Trump drops to fourth or fifth in the polls over the next three months, his ego will not allow an embarrassment in Iowa or New Hampshire.
2) Scott Walker – there were time when I looked at Walker sweating on stage and thought Richard Nixon looked more comfortable onstage in the 1960 debate. There is only one Governor who is going to have a shot of being President and it is not Walker. His whole demeanor shouts “why are you not taking me seriously I did all of these cool things in Wisconsin.” Kasich has the experience angle, Christie has the mini-Trump angle, Walker has no angle.
3) Rand Paul – Ouch. Rand Paul is the wrong kind of candidate for the GOP this cycle. If he was 10 years older, perhaps a Rand Paul candidacy would have been more viable in 2008 or 2012. I would not be surprised in the least if tonight was his last debate appearance this cycle.
Speaking of last appearances…
The field will grow smaller with the lowest tier candidates taking the Rick Perry high road and bailing before the next debate.
Here are my guesses of the October departure list: