Another one down, and this one thankfully, mercifully even, well done by the Fox Business Network, the Wall Street Journal, and the moderators. There was substance, there was contrast, and there was something to talk about that didn’t involve how atrocious those in charge were. Neil Cavuto in particular knew the line between tough question and outright attack. None of the candidates can say with any credibility that the media was out to get them.
1. [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] – While Cruz hit his talking points and made some great statements, like Jeb, he did not stand out. This isn’t as big a problem for him as it is the others, because he has a natural base of conservative voters that will turn out for him no matter what. Bush doesn’t have that, and that’s why he’s free-falling at his point. Cruz coming out swinging against the agriculture lobby could very well be his testing the water for corn subsidy talk in Iowa.
2. Carly Fiorina – Carly showed why she should not be counted out yet. She speaks like a caring grandmother, and she has to be the calmest neoconservative I’ve ever seen on a stage speaking about the Middle East. She spoke calmly and coolly on every issue that came her way, and some issues that didn’t. She cannot yet be counted out.
3. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] – Rubio did not hurt himself tonight by any stretch of the imagination. He let [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] ruffle his feathers a little bit, but I think he overall hit his notes correctly. He is clearly courting the warhawks of the Republican Party right now. He hit on his family background only once, focusing instead on global affairs and fighting back against Paul.
1. John Kasich – With nearly every exchange with Donald Trump, John Kasich comes off looking worse. He appeared flustered that he was not in friendly waters – a liberal media outlet – any longer, and he took to the attack. None of the hits really seemed to land, to the point where he tried to interrupt to get his talking points in. Further, he once again showed he doesn’t care so much for conservative policies so much as he wants “fair” policies, which is very much his code for recognizing that the state must grow even if the budget is balanced.
2. [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] – Paul’s biggest problem last night was that he came off as smug in his confrontations with Rubio, the moderators, and others. What he said brings good discussion (though perhaps not necessarily good ideas) to the table, but his presentation during the debate was that of someone who is so sure of himself and, frankly, so unsure as to why he is so low in the polls. If he wants to make his way back up in the polls, that attitude has to go away.
3. Jeb Bush – Bush did nothing to stand out, which is something he needed to do tonight, and do it in a positive way. He fell into the exact same habit he’s had this whole primary – engage, then back off. He criticized Trump on Syria, but flubbed and just quit. There have not been any teeth to his attacks this whole time. He did not attack Rubio as expected, but he did not find an avenue in which to make himself stand out.
1. Donald Trump – He did not hurt himself tonight. Trump’s level of control in the debates has improved, and while I will never find myself supporting him, one cannot help but admire how much he’s changed with regard to how he acts in public. His time at the top of the polls is at an end, but he is very clearly not going away any time soon.
2. Ben Carson – The good doctor did himself wonders tonight by very clearly brushing up on economic policy. No longer must we suffer a meandering Carson as he struggles to answer a policy question (hopefully!). I think the 90-second response time helped him out a lot because he had the time to get his point across. He did not lose his spot as the front runner because of this debate. If he drops, it would be because of the performances of others.