Round 2 is in the books and a few things became abundantly clear:
- As much as we all complained about how Fox managed its shot, CNN showed how to really screw up a debate.
- 10 was rough in the prime time debate last time and 11 made it even worse.
- We all see, hear and perceive things differently.
I like Jake Tapper and he’s a good journalist. I don’t know Hugh Hewitt nor Dana Bash and, frankly, think if they were going to be so underutilized, there was no reason for them to be there. The rules were laid out in the beginning and they were quickly forgotten. It quickly deteriorated into a free-for-all with all of the candidates.. save for Dr. Ben Carson.. doing all they could to interrupt, interject and throw a tantrum to be heard.
Having 11 candidates on stage at once made it very hard to control. Having a debate go three hours was also ill-conceived. Now to the performances. And, that’s really what they were. This was not a conglomeration of ideas and thoughts on fixing what the current president has broken. This was a reality show with everyone involved, save for Carson, fighting for face time.
The big winner? Donald Trump. There are scores of pundits saying Rubio or Fiorina but, there is no doubt whatsoever Trump was the big winner. My reasoning is simple. For what seemed like almost the entire first half of the debate, every single question or comment uttered by Jake Tapper was either to Trump or about something he’d said or done. He was talked about the most, spoke the most and dominated the attention of and criticism by the other candidates. Were all of his answers great? Nope. Did he make a misstep? Yes, when he went after George W Bush. Will he see his numbers drop after this? Not even a little.
My big loser might surprise you. Chris Christie. I watched some of the coverage afterwards and heard the “experts” pontificating about how great the New Jersey governor did. As a reality TV star, he’s great. He’s got tons of personality, doesn’t take a lot of guff and commands your attention with his humor and presence. The problem he’s got with those of us who actually listen to what they say is he’s a big government, central government guy. I’m not assuming nor guessing. He said it clearly. If elected, he would shut down Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is not covered in the Constitution and is an issue that should be left to the states. He doesn’t believe that. Also, he actually called Social Security an entitlement and wants the government to decide who among us gets it. Earth to Christie, the government steals that money from our paychecks with the intention of us getting it back when we retire. That’s our money that we are forced to let you hold and collect interest on. By saying those who have succeeded shouldn’t get it, he’s actually proposing a huge new tax on people. But, he was the US Attorney. How do I know? He said it over and over.
Everyone else falls in between with some pushing the top and the others dragging to the bottom. I’ll give you my take from left to right.
- Rand Paul – He was obviously coached to not come off as confrontational or angry. He is great on the Constitution but, I felt a letdown from him after the fire we’re used to seeing. That said, I think he helped himself a bit although starting at 1 percent, you can’t really go down much.
- Mike Huckabee – I really like him and his convictions about values. He got very little time to talk but when he did speak he was convicted, strong, direct and did it with a smile. He’s right on the Fair Tax but most people do not understand it so it’s an issue from which he’ll gain traction. He comes off as very nice and for those not as engaged in issues, that’s very important. He helped himself.
- Marco Rubio – He was great but needs to assume he’s on camera the entire time. He was caught wiping sweat quite a few times and looks a bit lost when he’s not talking. Interestingly, when it is his turn, he appears just the opposite. As far as issues, his answers on foreign affairs were great and his answer to speaking Spanish was interesting. He did well for himself
- Ted Cruz – On the issues, he’s the best candidate by far. He’s incredibly consistent but got very little time to talk. The reason for that is two fold. The media either doesn’t see him as a threat or the fact that he’s not attacking Trump makes him seem disinterested. His firmness on the Iran deal and Constitution were strong. When he did have a shot to speak, he found the camera and looked at it. That served to make the viewers feel uncomfortable. He should have looked at Tapper and stayed looking at him. He didn’t help nor hurt himself mainly because he didn’t get the chance to.
- Ben Carson – He remains a bit of an enigma for me. His intelligence is immense. He’s got a great dry wit. His thoughts on issues are strong although his comments on illegal immigration won’t win him a lot of stern conservative support. But, as I’ve said before, he’s got to raise the energy and charisma levels. Like it or not, those are big factors for voters. They need someone dynamic with a big personality. I think he hurt himself a bit.
- Jeb Bush – He brought more energy and seemed much more engaged. His dust up with Donald Trump was strong on both ends. He needs to develop a better strategy to derail the Big Media as they continue to ask him loaded questions about his brother’s presidency. He helped himself.
- Scott Walker – He’s a strong republican governor in a blue state. That in it of itself is very strong. His answers on the issues were strong. He jumped in a lot and was just allowed to talk which seemed strange. He, like Cruz, should NOT look directly at the camera when answering. It comes off sales-pitchy and will make viewers uncomfortable. He didn’t help nor hurt himself.
- Carly Fiorina – Another big winner of the night. She belonged on the Prime Time debate. She did great on foreign policy issues. She stayed on message about fixing what’s wrong here and abroad and more than held her own surrounded by bigger, louder men. One issue she should watch is that she seemed to almost constantly interrupt that became annoying. Lastly, she’ll find if she smiles a bit in the heat of the debate she’ll make more people watching comfortable and garner support. She helped herself.
- John Kasich – He comes off as a nice enough guy although the substance of what he says revolves around his service in the House many years ago and he touts successes in Ohio. Fact is, he’s expanded Medicaid in that state which is more of your money and mine going to those who didn’t earn it. That’s a very unconservative thing to do. His biggest problem is, however, he comes off as very uneasy on the stage. Status quo for him.
What’s the take-away? Donald Trump continues to drive the agenda of these debates as he drives the audience to the tube to watch. We need fewer candidates in these debates. The next one is slated for October 28th on CNBC. It’s my hope four or five will drop out by then. That would leave 10 or 11 still in the race. I would suggest they have five or six on the early debate and no more than five front-runners in the Prime Time debate. Time to really get some answers — long form. Let them mix it up without 10 other voices insisting on getting attention.