Thursday September 17, 2015
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I watched the first debate but am not going to write about it much because none of those four men - however much you might agree or disagree with them - are going to be the Republican nominee.
I thought Jake Tapper let the conversation flow pretty well; jumping in to stop anyone who started to filibuster but let the contestants engage in back and forth discussion.
To pick a winner, though, It was Lindsay Graham in a walk. He was relaxed. Funny. Knowledgeable. And, self-deprecating (especially commendable in a place named after Ronald Reagan).
The winner here was Carly Fiorina. Again. She had a higher bar to clear this time: She wasn't going to surprise anyone because of her performance in the first debate. Her Middle East answer was precise and smooth.
But, that wasn't the winner. When she fired back at Donald Trump about his statement in a Rolling Stone Magazine article about her appearance she brought down the house. Trump tried to parry by saying he thought she was a beautiful woman - inside and out - but the audience sat on its hands.
The next best performance was by Ben Carson. He was calm; even soothing. I'm not sure he can - or should - be president but I'd love to see him with a high position in a Republican administration.
Jeb Bush came to life in this debate. Although Trump's lack of civility caused him to talk over, and disagree with Bush, Jeb fought back especially by being able to refer to his achievements as Governor of Florida. At least through the first hour, there was no attempt to make Jeb defend his father or his brother. When he did, Jeb had a clear answer: "He kept us safe."
Marco Rubio did nothing to dissuade that he is among the best natural politician of the group. He didn't fight very hard to get into many of the conversations, but when he got his chance he helped himself.
I like Gov. John Kasich personally and I thought he held his own very well. After about 15 minutes of Trump vs the Field, he had the presence of mind to call out Jake Tapper and suggest the debate be about policy positions not "ad hominem attacks." Later, when he was asked why he didn't attack Hillary Clinton, he said he was more interested in introducing himself to the American public with his accomplishments in Washington and Columbus, Ohio.
The pre-debate buzz was that Gov. Scott Walker needed to step up his game in this debate. If he did, it was a modest improvement. I'll be interested, when the "who-got-how-much-time" reports come out, to see whether Walker got his fair share. He didn't fight his way to the hoop to get in on more of the discussions, but when he did get in, he knew what he was talking about.
Donald Trump's act is, at long last, getting stale. He spoke with bombast and bluster. His answer on a question about Syria he sounded like a befuddled Miss America contestant. As I noted above Fiorina leveled him and I suggested in a Tweet that the date and time be noted as the point where the Trump campaign began to fade.
Governor Chris Christie was on the right hand edge of the stage and made almost no impression. In fact, as I was typing the names of all the candidates (to make sure I didn't leave anyone out) I literally forgot he was on the stage until I saw a wide shot with him in it.
Sen. Ted Cruz was a steady adherent for his positions. He did as well as I thought he would do but, as the saying goes, the expectations were modest and he met them.
Sen. Rand Paul had to put up with a totally uncalled for attack by Trump right out of the box, but he's a professional and recovered. Paul's campaign is not going anywhere and nothing last night changed that arc.
I will be interested to see what the TV audience was for last night's debate as compared to the Fox debate's 24 million viewers.
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