Last Debate of the Year
Wednesday December 16, 2015
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I have found some of the previous debates cringe-worthy, but as the candidates have been through this five times, been on the stump for months, have had to answer questions from both print and TV reporters almost daily, and have had time to cull their advisors to get to the ones who know what they're talking about; last night's was pretty good.
I agreed with whomever pointed out that listening to the three Senators debate the finer points of second degree amendments in years-ago immigration legislation that never became law is tedious for most of us.
But, immigration was a big deal even before Donald Trump made it a big deal and it has only become more complicated with the additional calculus of dealing not just with illegals coming across the border from Mexico, but with people from militant Islamic groups who would do us harm.
Here is my thumbnail look at the results.
Donald Trump: Took a couple of good whacks from Jeb Bush and pushed back by taunting Bush with the poll numbers. Fair fight each way. Trump had no clue what the Nuclear Triad is - and no one challenged him on it - but all in all he did himself no harm. His supporters will continue to support him, his detractors will not and this debate probably will not have moved very many votes.
Ben Carson: Somehow wove cutting into children's heads into a discussion about taking out ISIS; also used the pre-flight caution to put your own oxygen mask on first as a metaphor for something else. I know I'm biased against him, but it astounds me that anyone can take him seriously as a candidate for President. I thought he was near the bottom of the performances last night.
Ted Cruz is a commanding presence on a debate stage. He got into a talking-over-each-other match with moderator Wolf Blitzer which did Cruz no good. He and Marco Rubio went head-to-head (it seemed like) a dozen times and I thought Cruz got the best of most of those. Ended up with a plus score.
Marco Rubio: Still the smoothest on the stage. As noted above I didn't think he did particularly well in his one-on-ones with Cruz, but he is a strong debate performer and probably deepened his attraction to his supporters. If someone had not been paying close attention and saw this as their first debate, he would have impressed them. Plus score here, as well.
Jeb Bush: He finally stood up to Trump. Maybe the physical distance on the stage helped, but he had Trump getting red faced and looking very much like Chevy Chase when he used to mock people on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" by standing behind them and making faces. This was, I thought, Bush's best performance. It might have come too late, but we're still six weeks out from the first time voters get a say.
Carly Fiorina has lost the big advantage she had in the early debates when no one had seen her or even heard of her. Now, she has to compete on an even field. She's fully capable of being on the stage and holding her own, but I think she has run out of fuel before reaching orbital velocity. Did no damage, but didn't improve her standing.
Chris Christie's advisors misguided him when they told him to bring up being a Federal Prosecutor in New Jersey for seven years after 9/11 as often as possible. Once was powerful. Twice was understandable, but it seemed like he said it in every answer. He is building strength in New Hampshire on the heels of the endorsement of the state's major newspaper, so more people in that important state might have been paying closer attention than previously. A tick above neutral, but not by much.
John Kasich: Like Fiorina he has lost the advantage of surprise. In fact, I thought he was missing much of the energy we have seen in the past. He is lagging in the polls and I wonder if he is beginning to phone it in, waiting for the results in Iowa in February (where he will not do well) to allow him to exit the race gracefully.
Rand Paul: Paul snuck onto the main stage on the final day of counting. He has well-thought-out positions and expresses them clearly. But, being a near-isolationist in a Repubican debate totally focused on terrorism and foreign policy, he didn't do very well.
Lad Link: You can read Reed's reaction to last night's debate HERE.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Just a Mullfoto and not even mine. It's one from my colleague and friend Tim Hyde - who was with me in Hungary for that adventure. Click on the link to see the haunting shot.
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