Note: While winners and losers are discussed in the below that does not mean that I favor one candidate or the other. To be quite honest if the NY State primary was today I have no idea who would get my vote, unless of course Ronald Reagan shows up alive and eligible to vote.
There were many winners and few losers in the Fox Business News (FBN) debate Tuesday night. Perhaps the biggest winner was FBN itself who conducted a substantive, professional debate, the biggest loser was CNBC whose performance in hosting a debate looks even more petty by comparison. With the exception of one question (who is you favorite democrat?) the questions led to the candidates to discuss their policies, without the snarky tone and nastiness. The format change, allowing the candidates more time to answer questions (90 seconds) was another factor, I would strongly urge CNN adopt this for the next debate in December. Don’t be surprised if FBN saw an increase in ratings, and that viewership is stolen from the hide of their larger-rated competition CNBC.
As far as the candidates go the biggest winners were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the biggest losers were Bobby Jindal during the early debate, and John Kaisch during the late debate.
Starting with the early foursome New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the clear winner. His style, focusing on Clinton and speaking directly to the TV helped him totally outclass the other candidates. The the only question with Christie’s performance is that unless there are enough candidates dropping out before next month’s CNN/Salem Radio debate in Vegas, he will most probably remain in the earlier debate.
Huckabee also performed admirably but was a distant second to Christie. IMHO Santorum appeared too whiney to have a successful debate and his screaming episode about the Democrats, “because they fight” wasn’t effective–just annoying. The worst candidate, and perhaps the worst job done by any candidate in any of the four debate nights so far was Bobby Jindal. He decided that he was going to spend his opportunity to speak to voters by bashing Chris Christie. But because Christie didn’t hit him back and kept his attention on Hillary Clinton, Jindal looked very petty especially when he made his comment, “Chris, I’ll give you a ribbon for participation and a juice box.” Jindal’s nastiness got him a lot of attention but may have lost him much support.
For similar reasons, Ohio Governor John Kasich was the big loser in the later debate. Kasich elbowed his way into the debate again and again, saying at one point, “Look, I hate to crash the party.” I get it, the Ohio governor felt he didn’t get enough time during the last debate but did he really have to butt into every question? Kasich he seemed too aggressive and border-line nasty (but nowhere near as bad as Jindal). At times the viewer got the feeling that Kasich looked down upon everyone else. Kasich’s only accomplishment was that he made himself seem more arrogant than the Donald Trump. Look for the Ohio governor to drop to the “children’s table debate” next month.
Carly Fiorina did very well, she demonstrated a clear knowledge and understanding of the news. Ironically at one point Trump lashed out to the only women in the GOP race, “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” But in actually it was Kasich who was the biggest violator.
One of the best slams of the FBN GOP was when Carly Fiorina took a jab at Donald Trump about Vladimir Putin, noting that she’s also met the Russian leader — “not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting.” But when Fiorina met with the Russian it was in a green room (but it was a substantive discussion). In 2001, Fiorina and Putin met for 45 minutes in a green room at the APEC CEO Summit in Beijing, where both were speakers.
Rand Paul had his strongest debate, perhaps because of the longer times for answers or because he found his aggressiveness, he seemed more like the strict libertarian he was before the debates started. Paul’s most classic line was when Trump criticized the Asian trade deal about to be voted on by congress. “It’s a deal that was designed to lead to China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone,” Trump said. That’s when Rand Paul interjected with a comment demonstrating that Trump didn’t exactly understand the deal. “Hey Gerard, we might want to point out China’s not part of this deal.”
One area that may have hurt Paul, was his objection to shoring up defense, and his isolationist tendencies. His objection to increased defense spending in a time where America seems week in the eyes of the world may have turned off most Republicans except for the strictest libertarian.
Before the debate it was clear that Jeb Bush had to break through or the decline of his 2016 chances would accelerate. Jeb gave his best debate performance. Unfortunately for Bush it was not good enough. Despite the fact that it was his best, his debate performance was still tepid. He seemed to struggle when he tried to translate his knowledge into political rhetoric that would impact the voter. He didn’t interject himself into the many squabbles between candidates. Bush did not turn around his decline last night—he’s done.
If Trump wasn’t Trump I would say he hurt himself last night. On the positive side he wasn’t as bombastic as he seemed in previous debates and at times seemed even friendly, telling the moderators to allow Jeb Bush to talk. On the other hand, his jab about Fiorina interrupting drew boos, his criticism of China and the TPP Agreement was blunted when Paul pointed out that China was part of the deal, and he was caught in a lie when he said that he spoke to Putin in the 60 Minutes green room. But Trump gave his interview in New York and Putin spoke from Moscow which means either Trump was lying or 60 Minutes has a green room that’s almost 4,700 miles long.
Interestingly I don’t believe that Trump was ever interrupted by the buzzer (I have to watch the debate again to be sure). The reason for that was Trump’s answers were long on rhetoric and hyperbole and short on details and facts. In the end nothing can dissuade Trump supporters so I don’t believe his numbers will change very much coming out of the debate.
Ben Carson did a great job defending himself against the charges he lied about his background, and then he disappeared. Oh he answered some questions, and stayed awake, but he did not stand out. I believe his support will begin to slowly decline.
The winners of the debate night were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, or Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
My favorite Cruz moment was when he said, “There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible. And not one is as good.” His indignant answer about Immigration was also excellent, he said the suggestion that opposing an immigration overhaul meant that Republicans were anti-immigrant was “offensive,” especially for someone with his background. He continued with, ”I understand when the mainstream media covers immigration, it often doesn’t see it as an economic issue,” said Cruz – defending Trump’s positions on the issue. “I would say the politics of it would be very, very, different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande — or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press.” Cruz kept hammering home the argument that if conservatives blur the distinction with Democrats, they will continue to lose elections. Cruz will gain support after last night’s FBN debate.
Edging Cruz out by a whisker, was Marco Rubio. In the aftermath of the FBN debate look for Bush donors switch to Rubio. The Florida senator has the skill of taking issues and explaining them in simple but effective ways. For example, his comment on raising the minimum wage, “If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine.”
Another example is his fight with Rand Paul about defense spending. Paul challenged Rubio about his proposed increase in defense spending, “How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You can not be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you can’t pay for.”
Rubio fired back with “I know that Rand is a committed isolationist. I’m not.” And he continued, “We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe,there are radical jihadists in the Middle East beheading people and crucifying Christians. A radical Shia cleric in Iran trying to get a nuclear weapon. The Chinese taking over the South China Sea.”
Mr Rubio, was confident and articulate and made a case for a generational change. “This election is about the future, about what kind of country this nation is gonna be in the 21st century….” Somewhere in the Clinton camp they are expending their efforts doing opposition research on Rubio but because they fear him the most.
Rubio supporters shouldn’t celebrate though, because their guy did dodge a bullet. During the big immigration fight/discussion, no one asked the Florida Senator about immigration a subject that he may be most vulnerable because of his work and support of the very flawed comprehensive immigration bill in the senate.
In the end the biggest winner was the Republican voters, instead of the idiotic questions of the CNBC, for the most part voters got substantial questions and fact-filled answers. That, after all is what these debates are supposed to be.