The First Republican Debate Was a Clown Show


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I missed the early debate, but it sounds like it was a real “treat.” I did see the primetime debate though, the “main event” debate. Here’s my thoughts on each debater’s performance:

  • Donald Trump- Here’s the good and the bad ness: this debate was about him. He got the most time to speak, and he was memorable with much of what he said. In short, I guess you can say he won the debate. Let’s be clear though, the performance he gave was deeply disturbing to any normal human being. The question of his treatment of women was embarrassing, he faced a relentless line of attacks, and he rarely answered questions. No one can watch that debate and possibly think he looks like a President. To be fair, his voters don’t want him to look like a President. While his line that he won’t necessarily pledge to back the GOP nominee pretty much disqualified him from winning the nomination, it was what his voters wanted to hear. His performance was one of the most fascinating, fun, bizarre political performances I’ve ever seen.
  • Jeb Bush- Jeb basically did what he needed to do, which was not disqualify himself tonight. With that said, he basically boring and did not impress anyone. He made no big mistake that will haunt him into the Fall, but he also scored few points towards making himself the clear choice. I thought he made two small mistakes that stood out though. The first, was in his response on abortion rights when he said his record was pro-life for “the whole life,” invoking the Terry Shiavo controversy, without every saying her name. This will come up again. The second mistake wasn’t so much a mistake as a weak answer. When asked about the Iraq War, he started the question strong by calling it a mistake, but started rambling as his answer went on. Jeb still can’t answer the non-question, question known as “George W. Bush,” and it was clear. It’s important to note he hasn’t run for office since 2002, and this performance was decent, relative to that.
  • Scott Walker- If anyone dropped an opportunity to stand out, it was him. He is supposedly one of the GOP’s most electable candidates, and yet he showed little to no appeal to anyone beyond the Republican base. Walker tried a few quips and one-liners, but he really wasn’t memorable on this night. Was he terrible? No. Did he gain anything from that debate? No.
  • Mike Huckabee- Huckabee remains a candidate with niche appeal. In this debate, that was clear again. Huckabee is carving out the blue-collar Christian vote. He, much like Walker though, was boring. There was very little to grab onto from his performance. He got high marks from the Fox News focus groups, but let’s not mistake that for any kind of appeal that gets him to the White House. Huckabee reached his political base, but that’s it.
  • Ben Carson- I can’t even believe I’m writing this, but I think he had a pretty good night. Sure, he didn’t play a big part in the debate, but Carson sounded less insane and radical than normal. Now, by no means does that help his candidacy, but it probably broadens his appeal a bit more.
  • Marco Rubio- Rubio increasingly reminds me of Paul Ryan. He comes across as fake to me. With that said, he didn’t have any slip-ups in this debate, he seemed to have decent command of his answers, and probably helped his campaign. The problem for Rubio is that this is exactly what one expects. When he slips down enough that he isn’t the center of attention, he does very well while being left alone. If he rises from his performance, his flaws will start to be exposed, and he doesn’t handle that well.
  • Rand Paul- If anyone lost on this night, it was Paul. With GOP voters, Chris Christie definitely got the better of him in their debate over the Patriot Act. Donald Trump ripped his heart out though when he said Paul wasn’t having a good night. Paul just came up small in every battle he picked, and probably doesn’t get it yet, because he’s far too arrogant. This wasn’t his night.
  • Ted Cruz- I was actually stunned that he played so little of a role in this one. For his reputation as a great debated, Cruz did not stand out. He did recite conservative talking points, and hit on issues that the base wants to hear, but he didn’t stand out, really for anyone.
  • Chris Christie- Christie probably didn’t change the game for himself in this performance, but he did help himself in his battle with Paul. Christie got “that moment” to appear tough, and to put himself out as a person who takes action, not a talker. He probably had a little better night than not.
  • John Kasich- Kasich appealed great to people not voting in the GOP Primary, but I wonder if he reached anyone voting. His performance wasn’t overly memorable for any one liners or anything else, except that he occasionally said some things that Democrats couldn’t hate. I wonder if he’ll stay in the top ten for this.

This debate was pretty embarrassing for us as a country. They advocated for nonsense foreign policy, showed no regard for women, and all argued for a government that is inactive on education, health care, energy, or anything else. In short, that debate made my head hurt.

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