Did you watch the GOP presidential primary candidate debate? If so, who did you feel were the winners and losers? If not, why didn’t you watch?
Paul Bremmer – Wash D.C., St. Bonaventure University 2012 Graduate, Bio – There was no way I was going to miss the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. The buildup had been too intense. In many ways, this debate was the equivalent of the first game of the regular season for political junkies.
The viewing audience was the largest ever for a non-sports event on cable TV. I think it’s a safe bet a lot of people who wouldn’t normally watch a presidential debate tuned in just to see Donald Trump. The Donald was by far the biggest story heading into the debate because of his refreshingly blunt style. As the GOP frontrunner, he probably had the most to lose in that debate, but I thought he walked away a winner.
He remained true to himself and his message without turning the debate into a circus, as I feared he might do. He did a good job of working within the format of the debate. He didn’t interrupt other candidates, he waited his turn to speak, and he still had plenty of time to satisfy his fan base with his usual blunt pronouncements.
He even showed off his sense of humor at certain points. Most of all, though, he still sits comfortably atop all the polls, so I think he had a good night.
Ben Carson was another winner, as evidenced by the polling boost he got after the debate. Carson didn’t get a lot of speaking time onstage, but when he did speak, he showed he’s the type of common-sense outsider candidate that conservatives crave.
I thought Marco Rubio did the best job of positioning himself as someone who could defeat the Democratic nominee in the general election. Rubio gave very thoughtful, articulate answers on several topics. He talked about his upbringing, which is an asset for him, and he attempted to explain how he could withstand certain attacks from Hillary Clinton. Rubio’s poll numbers also went up after the debate.
Even though she wasn’t in the main debate, I think Carly Fiorina was possibly the biggest winner of the day. She dominated the “happy hour debate” with thoughtful and mature answers, especially on foreign policy. She showed she is better prepared to lead the country than the two Republican women who were the butt of jokes during the past two election cycles.
Before the debate, she was not even polling in the top 10, but now she’s one of the top 5 or 6 in most polls.
I think Rand Paul was the biggest loser among the candidates. I could tell he was desperate to create a breakout moment for himself, and desperation is never a good thing for a candidate. He was the only one who really went after Donald Trump, and it completely backfired on him. I think Trump spoke the harsh truth when he told Paul, “You’re having a hard time tonight.” Paul’s poll numbers remain depressingly low.
The biggest loser of all, though, was probably Megyn Kelly of Fox News. A debate moderator should never become part of the story, but that’s what happened to Kelly when Trump criticized her after the debate. Most Republican viewers came down on Trump’s side, believing Kelly had been unfair to him.
Many conservatives also blasted Kelly for spending too much time talking during the debate and for asking too many “gotcha” questions.
Arianna Mendez – FL, Florida International University 2014 Masters Degree, Bio – The first Republican Presidential debate did not move the needle in any one candidate’s direction. Rubio, Kasich, Huckabee, and Fiorina (in the happy hour debate) had the best night. Those four candidates will definitely enjoy a post-debate bump in the polls.
Trump continued to be bombastic and unapologetic, and thanks to Megan Kelly’s question about comments he has made about women, many conservatives came to his defense.
Kelly’s “woman” question was by no means unprofessional, but it played right into Trump’s narrative about the America’s problem with political correctness. Objectively, Trump did not have a good debate performance.
He lacked policy knowledge, and his musings were sometimes incoherent, but he was able to deliver memorable one-liners that enthused the crowd, but offered little substance.
Trump survived the debate unscathed precisely because the debate was low on substance. It’s easy to get-by with one-liners if the questions are personalized and argumentative. At this point, the only person who can politically “destroy” Trump is Trump himself.
I was puzzled by Ted Cruz who defended Trump indirectly not only in this debate but in other interviews and appearances.
Trump is a phenomena created by a media that does not know how to cover a candidate who is off-script. The media is covering him from day to night providing the free publicity that many other Republican candidates desperately need to gain traction.
The fascination with Trump is the legacy of the failed candidacies of McCain and Romney. The prim and proper, courteous, and sometime meek personas of McCain and Romney have created a yearning among conservatives for an aggressive candidate. Republicans are looking for someone who is unapologetic and a so-called “straight talker.”
Trump, a master salesman, knows how to gage the wants of his customers, and he is giving conservative voters exactly what they want. His campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” is very non-descriptive.
Much like Obama’s “Hope and Change” in 2008, both slogans lend themselves to personalized interpretation. Just like Democrat voters in 2008 decided what “Hope and Change” meant to them, now Republicans are finding their own meaning in Trump’s slogan.
Trump should not be underestimated. He has successfully tapped into an anger and frustration among voters that could be harnessed into electoral victories. Based on the debate performances, I did not see a candidate on that stage up to the task of politically “taking down” Trump.
Rubio, Kasich & Huckabee
Rubio was able to demonstrate knowledge about the issues with charisma, and he successfully stepped out of Bush’s shadow. Kasich presented his brand of compassionate conservatism in an articulate and compelling manner. He had the type of performance Bush should have delivered. Huckabee had several entertaining double entendre and came across as approachable and knowledgeable.
Jeb Bush’s performance was lackluster. Granted his objective in this debate was to avoid an embarrassing gaffe since his strategy is to outlast the other candidates. Unfortunately, I felt it was a disappointing performance. He seemed nervous and stuttered at times during his responses.
Bush’s response to the Iraq war question continues to need improvement. This is a question he must be prepared to answer. His overall demeanor and presentation continues to leave much to be desired. Bush’s response to the immigration question also did not inspire.
He needs to show more of a backbone in these forums. People need to feel he is ready to take on Hillary.
Rand Paul & Chris Christie
The exchange between Rand Paul and Chris Christie about privacy versus security was ironically one of the few “debate” moments in this debate. The two candidates represent two diverging views in the Republican Party on security, and it would have been enlightening to have the other candidates chime into the privacy debate. The Republicans are split on this issue between libertarian and establishment conservatives disagreeing on what how much privacy should be sacrificed for the sake of security.
What do I want to see in the next debate? Bush has to have a more effortless performance and needs to have a better response to the Iraq War question. He needs to show heart and passion. The next debate should have more policy oriented questions. And, perhaps there needs to be fewer questions so candidates can debate the issues more thoroughly.
I would also like to see Carly Fiorina in the next top-tier debate. She has definitely earned her place at the table, and an exchange between her and Trump promises to be entertaining. She will have to answer for time as CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP) and explain why she was fired.
With that said, Republicans must keep in mind the GOP shared goal is to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House in 2016. We may disagree on whom we support for president now, but we have to agree to run on a positive message for America’s future and not fall prey to vitriol and contempt.
Nana Osei – SC, College of Charleston Student, Bio – The GOP presidential primary debate was extremely entertaining and partially informative. Before I dive into the winners and losers of the debate, it is important for readers and watchers to understand this is the initial debate, and the Republican nomination occurs on July 18, 2016.
With the election barely under a year away, it is important for voters to realize current polls should be taken with a grain of salt, and more times than not, the candidate leading in August does not acquire the nomination.
My top three candidates of the debate were Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Jeb Bush. All three of these candidates had one thing in common, they did not seem to dive into the personal one on one battles of the debate. They all went in with a plan of reaching out to as many viewers without being distracted by the other candidates. They executed their plan well.
Dr. Ben Carson was not bullish or too vocal in the debate until called upon by the Fox broadcasters. This seemed to pay off as he made the most of his time on the microphone. Senator Rubio was excellent at inspiration during the debate. His goal was to have viewers imagine him as their next president and see his progressive plan.
Governor Bush made my top three list, because going into the debate he had the most to lose. However, he maintained his cool while standing next to the leader in polls and seemed more intelligent and a better leader than Trump. Along with his cool, Bush managed to stick to his plan and hit the important accomplishments of his tenure as Florida Governor. This helped the viewers distinguish what Jeb has done alone without his family name.
My bottom three candidates were Senator Rand Paul, Governor Scott Walker, and Governor Mike Huckabee. I considered Senator Paul to have the worst display in the debate as he came off as a hot head. He strongly engaged with Trump, who dismissed him in a demeaning way, and then followed up with the same tactic with lower in the polls Governor Christie. Both his personal debates did not end with Paul looking like the future nominee.
Governor Huckabee, whom was at the bottom of the pack, needed to do something in this debate to be recognized. As an older politician, whom has been out of office for some time, I was expecting him to have a stronger voice distinguishing him from the pack. He did not.
Governor Scott Walker was in my bottom three, because he ranked third highest in the polls prior to the debate. However, he seemed like he was a middle tier candidate. He distinguished himself as pro-life; however, didn’t express how his policies in Wisconsin would resonate with the entire nation. As a front runner prior to the debate, he slipped in my ranking of candidates behind Dr. Carson and Senator Ted Cruz.
This initial debate was fun and entertaining. Once the field begins to get smaller, the race for the Republican nominee is sure to become more intellectual and informative of candidates policies.
Photo Credit – KDVR