Tonight is the WFAA Channel 8 Belo Debate in which Republican candidates square off in a battle to become retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's successor.
We've had all the candidates on the show, and I'll tell you ... there are things I like (and dislike) about all of them.
Pre-debate thoughts in blue. Post-debate reaction in red.
He has undoubtedly been my favorite, but I must disclose that he's the only candidate I've seen outside of the radio station. Cruz spoke in Burleson (my hometown) several months ago, and his command of the issues -- as well as his consistency on conservative philosophy -- was astounding. Young, poised, energetic, and focused, Cruz admitted that it would be an uphill battle to defeat Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, but he was clearly driven by deep faith and love for country.
Cruz's endorsements are nothing short of impressive. From the National Review, to George Will, to Senator Jim DeMint, to Dr. James Dobson, the list is diverse, but it is, above all, conservative.
My only issues with Cruz have been stylistic ones. He needs to learn to attack Dewhurst without appearing desperate and petty. He does much better when he stays on issues, as he did at least year's Values Voters Summit.
POST DEBATE ANALYSIS:
This was just disappointing. From the beginning, Cruz did nothing but launch hyper-aggressive attacks at the Lieutenant Governor. Enough already. Cruz does himself no favors when he attacks ... and that appears to be all he was interested in doing tonight. (He also appeared to really irritate the moderators.)
Having said that, Cruz shows a fierce love for our Constitution, and of all the candidates, I would expect him to make the most immediate stir in the Senate ... but would his aggressive style be effective, or would he turn off his colleagues?
Of all the candidates, I think I like former Mayor Leppert on a personal level the most ... no, I know that I do.
He is the ultimate gentlemen with not a hint of pretentiousness. Also (and I have told him this) he is the candidate that comes across as the most "senatorial," which might not matter to some folks, but it still does to me. He has the countenance, the composure, and the class of a Senator.
An outsider would assume that Leppert's candidacy is all about jobs, after all, that seems the be the focus of most of his commercials, however what I find most impressive is his approach to repealing Obamacare. Everyone says they'll repeal the bill, but Leppert has a real plan for what to do after the repeal. You can find his comprehensive solutions on his website.
Dang, that city-funded hotel.
POST DEBATE ANALYSIS:
I can't formally endorse, but Leppert just became my new favorite. It seems that he received less talk time than the other candidates tonight, but even with that working against him ... he said more than the rest of them, possibly combined.
He is as solid on the economy as they come, and he focused on optimistic solutions rather than complaining about Obama or the other candidates. He articulated his positions flawlessly and treated his colleagues with respect.
As I said before the debate ... this man is Senate-ready.
No one can deny that he has a commanding presence, and as Lieutenant Governor of the Lone Star State, there's something to be said for the man who's worked along side Governor Rick Perry -- the ultimate state's rights governor. My hope is that he's learned from example.
His campaign purse is hefty, and his ads are constant, leaving you with no choice but to pay attention, but I think it's fair to say that he's much more moderate than Cruz -- the candidate that, from the looks of Dewhurst's ads, he clearly fears the most.
There's a list of impressive endorsements for Dewhurst, as well, including Huckabee and Michael Reagan.
POST DEBATE REACTION:
Either Dewhurst just isn't cut out for debating, or he thinks this is wrapped up and didn't bother preparing, because from what I could see, he was extremely shaky on the issues and didn't defend himself well against Ted Cruz's relentless attacks.
I honestly don't know what else to say. Good thing, for him, he's got deep pockets.
What to say? What a bizarre entry into an already crowded, competitive race. The former ESPN analyst and SMU football star must know what he's doing, but I still don't quite understand it.
What I do understand is that he's done an outstanding job of simplifying the issues for average folks. He speaks a positive, pro-American message and does it with an all-American charm that, I admit, is refreshing. The only "non-politician" in the race, he just speaks his mind and seems to do so with the skill you'd expect from a long-time broadcaster.
My biggest concern about James? 2012 isn't the time for on-the-job training.
POST DEBATE REACTION:
Well, well, well ... the pleasant surprise of the night. James is clearly milking the "values voters" for their support, and I think it's a message that will resonate across Texas ... (well, maybe not in Lubbock.)
Very impressive on border security and military funding, and passionate about faith. He was well-spoken, but did come across as a bit hyper -- to the point that he looked like he was about to cry at one point.
A bit awkward. A bit endearing.
Thanks for reading!