Saturday, February 6, 2016

My take on the most recent Republican Debate.

Chris Christie and Marco Rubio during the debate. ABC News/Getty.

I just finished watching the most recent Republican debate and I have a lot to say. I think it was a great debate and every entertaining throughout. The questions were very good and the moderation team did a very good job at keeping the debate under control. Kudos to ABC for a good job all around. Except for the incredibly embarrassing start of course! What was the deal with that? When the candidates came in, Ben Carson was announced but didn't move and soon Trump joined him. They were just standing around and they seemed more then a little confused. Not sure if it was the candidates or ABC that screwed that up, but it was pretty funny either way. Other then that embarrassment, I think ABC did a good job. 

I was also able to watch the entire debate, start to finish. I did live tweet the debate but because my family was with me, I wasn't able to tweet much for the first 45 minutes. You can find my tweets here. One of my tweets got quite a bit of exposure as well. It's fairly odd too because it was a tweet about John Kasich, who I have been very critical of until this point. But I gave credit where credit is due and his fans appreciated it.  

There were some clear winners and losers in this debate. That much is for sure. It was a very, very, VERY bad night for one of the candidates. So much so that he will certainly lose in New Hampshire and may even have destroyed his chances completely. And it was a great night for a couple of the other candidates that haven't made much of an impact as well. As always, I will take it candidate by candidate. 

Donald Trump:
As always, Donald Trump had a good night. He didn't make any major mistakes and made quite a few good points. Best of all, almost nobody attacked him. Even Ted Cruz, who was bashing him on the campaign trail, pretty much left him alone during this debate trail. Only Jeb Bush dared to attack him and he did it on an issue that might get some traction, eminent domain. Bush tried to hit Trump hard on his use of  eminent domain as a businessmen, which is, truthfully, something that Trump needs to explain better. But Trump was very strong in his fight against Bush.

Why? Because he turned the attack around on Jeb Bush. Bush was trying to hit him about eminent domain but Trump effectively sidestepped the issue. How? He made it all about the donor class instead. Obviously, a lot of them were there and they were supporting Jeb Bush. Trump called them out and was completely correct in saying that the donor class hates him. Though the audience hated, because they were the ones being called out, I think the moment plays well for Trump and people will completely ignore the eminent domain issue that brought up the fight in the first place. 

Trump also had an excellent moment when he talked about the execution of James Foley by ISIS. He, in a very respectful way, said that negotiating with terrorists is a very bad idea. But he did it in a way that made it very clear that he supported the family of James Foley as well. Ted Cruz pretty much said the same thing but Trump's delivery was much better, and the moment will play well. 

Trump also will score points for his comments about law enforcement and veterans. He stuck up for both of those groups and it will probably work out for him. Trump knows that cops and soldiers votes too, and playing to their interests will help him quite a bit. And the people that hate cops and soldiers aren't too likely to vote for someone like Donald Trump in the first place...

Overall, I think Trump came pretty close to winning this debate. I guess it depends on how you define it, but I do think that Trump's numbers will probably rise in New Hampshire and probably nationally as well. He made a lot of good points and made some good arguments but he also didn't have any flubs, with the possible exception of his harsh comment in favor waterboarding and worse. That could cause him problems with the liberal media, who will attack him for it, but the statement will probably help him with his base. All Trump needed to do here was survive but he did better then that, so my guess is that he wins New Hampshire. 

Ted Cruz:
Not a great night for Cruz. He got hit hard about the Iowa Caucuses. Both Ben Carson and Donald Trump hit him on the issue, to the point where Trump accused him of stealing the election. Ted Cruz tried to explain the issue buy claiming that it was his staffers and CNN that screwed up. That is simply not true. CNN tweeted out right away that Carson wasn't dropping out of the race, and I have the feeling that Ted Cruz, or people high up in his campaign, knew about that. It's clear to me that someone in his campaign knew the truth about the story. I'm watching CNN right now and they are saying that Ted Cruz is lying through his teeth.

This is a huge problem for Cruz. Everyone is calling him out on this and at the very least his actions are sleazy. And millions of people, who may have missed the scandal when it happened or dismissed it as big talk from Donald Trump, saw the truth tonight. The fact that Cruz hasn't punished anyone for this means that he doesn't think it is a big deal. I think the American public will think it is a big deal as well. This can only hurt Ted Cruz.

Cruz also completely waffled on the waterboarding question. You could tell that the question took him off guard and he didn't really take a strong stance either way. His opinion, that it should only be used in extreme circumstances and should not be done by low ranking officers, is defensible but the way he made his point wasn't great.

That isn't to say that the debate was a disaster for Cruz. In fact, he had a couple of good moments. Saying that he would rescind Barack Obama's executive orders will play well among Republicans. And his comments about addiction were moving. His sister had problems with drugs and died of an overdose and his reaction to the question was good. Since that question was based on an attack on Cruz claiming he doesn't understand the issue, I think his response was perfect.

Still, I think that Cruz will be hurt by this debate. I don't think the Iowa issue is going to go away. Indeed, now that the debate has put the issue front and center, it's going to gain steam. I don't know if it will be enough to torpedo Cruz entirely, but I do think that his chances in New Hampshire have completely evaporated, and I would be surprised if he gets better then 3rd place. 

Marco Rubio:
Utter disaster. After the Iowa Caucus, the media was claiming that Rubio was going to win the whole thing. That was obviously premature. Rubio was eviscerated by Chris Christie. He was utterly destroyed, to the point where I am seriously wondering if he can recover. I don't know if it is enough for him to be knocked out of the race, but his chances certainly went down tonight.

Why? Chris Christie hit Rubio hard on being a Washington politician who only memorizes speeches and lines and doesn't have any substantive response to the issues. Rubio responded in a terrible, terrible way. By repeating the same canned comments and lines that he had said before! It was terrible for him because he proved Christie's criticism right! People are already saying that this is the worst moment since Dan Quayle's moment back in 1988, as posted below. 

That performance ruined Dan Quayle as a vice president and made him into a living joke. I don't know if Rubio has fallen to that level but he did not do himself no favors either. And that wasn't the only bad moment for Rubio. Rubio tried to hit Chris Christie, a man known for caring about disasters that hits his state, for not caring about the snowstorm that hit his state. That's just ludicrous. And his constant defense of Barack Obama's competence is not going to play well. Even if Obama did have a plan to change the country, it's stupid to argue that he's some kind of hyper-competent president. And again, he kept repeating it, even after Christie and Trump called him out on it. There is no reason to do so and it made him look stupid. To be fair, Rubio kind of recovered in the 2nd part of the debate, but you won't be hearing much about it because the gaffes were so severe. I just don't think that Rubio recovers from this.

Jeb Bush:
Not a bad night for Bush. Not a good night either. The best thing that can be said for Bush is that his main rival, Marco Rubio got bashed and bashed hard. Even better, Bush wasn't the one that had to attack him either, which is just a bonus. He needed to somehow blunt Rubio's campaign but in the end he didn't have to do anything. Jeb Bush also was quite a bit more animated and coherent then he has had been in the past debates. 

Still, this is Jeb Bush we are talking about. When Bush had good moments, he was mostly agreeing with other candidates. And I don't think his attack on Trump will help him all that much. Trump's response dodged the issue completely and manged to portray Bush as a slave to the donor class while at the same time saying that he is immune to their influence. And because it is Jeb Bush, he was stuttering and stumbling. The man is just not very good at debating

I do think that Bush managed to survive and is probably in a better position then he was before the debate. That's not saying much, and he had very little to do with his reversal of fortune. But I do think there is a tiny bit of hope for Jeb Bush. He certainly didn't hurt his chances tonight and if nothing else he might overtake Rubio as he heads to the bottom of the polls.

Ben Carson:
Carson was present for the debate, but that's about all I can say about him. The best thing I can say for him is that he got sympathy due to Ted Cruz's actions during the Iowa Caucuses. He really did get screwed over in Iowa and I think people will feel sorry for him. He might get back a few Ted Cruz voters who are disgusted by his actions.

Other then that though, Carson made next to no impact. Carson spent more then a little time complaining that he didn't get enough time to talk during the debate. As Jim Webb can tell you, that's not a winning strategy. If you aren't getting much time to talk you try and interrupt or make the best of the time you have. Carson tried to do that, but he also whined a bit and that isn't going to help him. 

It wasn't all bad for Carson. He seemed like he did his homework about the ISIS situation in Libya. He accurately described the threat there and did it in a way that should help the American public understand what the issue. He also joined the other candidates in voicing his support for the veterans. Still, I don't see this debate helping Carson. He had a quiet night and I think he won't be in the race much longer.

Chris Christie:
At first you would think that Christie won the debate. He did give Marco Rubio a killing blow and will go down in history as one of the better debate performances in recent history. He certainly can be considered an effective debater. But I don't think he won.

Why? He looked mean. He was picking on Marco Rubio to the point were it just like he was beating a baby seal. One thing I have noticed is that people don't always like a mean candidate. Even though Donald Trump has that reputation, he has enough moments of levity, even with someone like Jeb Bush, that he doesn't really look that much like a bully. And even the accusation can hurt you. Christie looked like a bully tonight and I don't think that helps him.

Someone on CNN called this a murder suicide. Chris Christie greatly decreased Marco Rubio's chances of winning but I don't think Chris Christie helped himself all that much. And don't forget just a couple of debates ago, Rubio utterly destroyed Chris Christie. This might be his revenge for Rubio's correct assessment of his campaign, but his revenge may be empty. 

On the issues I think Christie had a decent night. He didn't really have to talk about issues he is weak on, like gun rights, and he probably scored a few points from moderates with his drug treatment credentials. Overall, I think that Christie had a good night in terms of debating, but I don't think that it helps him in the campaign.

John Kasich:
Very good night for Kasich. He was a lot more animated tonight and even funny at a few moments. He also did a very good job of explaining who he is and what he wants to do. And he had his best moment of his campaign tonight when he gave a very passionate defense of the veterans. Given how many people re-tweeted my tweet about that moment, his supporters and other debate watchers agreed with me. 

I think Kasich helped his chances here and did a very good job at staying in the race. He was also helped by Rubio's fall, since he was a major competitor for Kasich. Kasich is also helped that Christie was way too mean and Bush was too much like Jeb Bush. If anyone rises in the polls in New Hampshire besides Donald Trump, I think it is Kasich. I also think that the fact that he has abandoned his attacks on Trump will help him as well. He even agreed with him at one point! Kasich isn't suited to be an attack dog, and leaving Trump alone suits him. 

I think that this may be the swan song for Marco Rubio. At the very least he torpedoed his chances in New Hampshire, and may have destroyed his entire campaign. Trump did good and all three governors increased their chances with Kasich having the best night followed by Christie and then Bush. Carson was a non-factor and Cruz is going to hurt due to his actions in Iowa. 

Time will tell how big of an impact this debate will have. My fear is that people won't have turned in because it was on a Saturday just before the biggest football game in the world, the Super Bowl. It's too bad that this was on a Saturday, even though it worked out pretty good for me. I do think that Trump will almost certainly win in New Hampshire unless more Ted Cruz shenanigans go down. 

I'm looking forward to the New Hampshire primary and some more future debates. I do plan on watching the Democrat's debate on Thursday the 11th and will at least be live tweeting it. I might not do reactions to that one, and if I do it will probably have to wait until the morning after. Until then, I will probably blog about something else for awhile! 

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