With two debates (really four if you count the JV schedule) down, one thing is perfectly clear—the GOP needs to start making cuts and vastly reduce the number of candidates on the debate stage. It’s time to provide the leading candidates the necessary air time beyond a 30-second sound bite to actually explain their position on the numerous issues our nation faces. I actually forgot poor Mike Huckabee was on stage in the last debate, as he wasn’t even brought into it until nearly 30 minutes had passed. It’s time to move away from the 11-candidate scrum, and here is my take, based on the most recent debate, of who should make the cut.
As much of a “loose cannon” as he seems to be, Mr. Trump stayed relatively quiet in the debate and continued to follow what has been working: no real specifics, a few juvenile jabs and no real understanding of how to solve the issues he identifies. It’s truly a candidate’s dream as he continues to dominate the field as well as the narrative — IN.
Carson is still second in the polls and he did nothing in the debate to change that. If anything, he offered a few more specifics and handled the increased attention that comes with his place in the polls well. If he can translate his standing into the financial support necessary to truly compete in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he could provide a legitimate alternative to Trump — IN.
In my opinion, Fiorina was the clear winner last night. She demonstrated solid foreign policy knowledge when discussing Putin and Syria, had a “highlight moment” when tackling the issue of Planned Parenthood, and made Trump look truly foolish when responding to Trump’s vile comment on her looks. She can clearly compete on the varsity level and will continue her upward trend — IN.
Bush definitely wins “Most Improved” from the first debate . . . which I am sure he will gladly take. While still not seeming totally comfortable, he exposed Donald on the issue of casino gambling in Florida, had the biggest applause of the night in defense of his brother, and showed some personality on a few issues, such as his use of marijuana and his secret service code name. With $100 million raised, he has the ability to see this race to the end — IN.
Kasich is still my sleeper-pick to make an impact in 2016. While benefiting from a hometown crowd in the first debate, Kasich remained above the pettiness that sometimes entered in the debate and relied on his strong record in both Congress and Ohio. His mature approach is resonating as polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire indicate — IN.
Also much improved from the first debate, Gov. Christie changed himself from a candidate who is trying to sell himself to the voters to one who gets the frustration of the American people and has the experience to facilitate the change. If he doesn’t start gaining traction nationally or in the early states, his time on the main stage will be jeopardized — Bubble.
Governor Walker needed a big night at the debate and sadly it didn’t happen. I remain surprised that his record didn’t quite resonated with the voters and his polling never improved. The first casualty of the season, he made the best decision in dropping out.
While Huckabee had good responses on gay marriage and Iran, his time has truly passed and if his poll numbers don’t dramatically change, he should no longer be part of the discussion — Out.
If not for Fiorina, Sen. Rubio would have been the clear winner. Going in, Rubio needed a big night and unquestionably delivered. He crushed a response on immigration and the value of speaking to Latino voters directly in Spanish, and made Trump look like a neophyte on foreign policy when discussing Syria. In the past, Democrats have said they fear Rubio the most, and he showed the public why — IN.
Senator Cruz is clearly one of the smartest candidates, with a compelling personal story. He is an excellent speaker and could benefit significantly from a smaller debate field. He was almost forgotten at times during the debate and post coverage almost ignored him completely. For example, in the two recap stories in the LA Times, he is the only candidate from either debate not mentioned once — Bubble.
Poor Sen. Paul . . . his first foray into the debate came from Donald Trump, who said he should not even be on stage because of his low poll numbers. While classless and unnecessary to mention — it’s true. Sen. Paul’s time has come to an end. I expect he will be the first candidate cut from the main stage — OUT.