Before I get to the 56 things I learned from the primetime CNBC #GOPdebate, I will first go over 12 things I learned from the afternoon debate.
12 things I learned in the afternoon debate
Participants: George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal
1. The CNBC camera crew doesn’t know who Bobby Jindal is. When they introduced him, the cameras stayed on Rick Santorum.
2. Jindal said when politicians speak, don’t listen to them. Look at what they do. Says he’s the only one who’s shrunk government.
3. Santorum says he shrunk government as a senator.
4. Pataki says hey, he shrunk government too.
5. Graham kicks right into fear mode about how scary the world is.
6. Pataki says Obama is the first US president to ever hold our troops hostage with the budget stand-off.
7. Graham says our enemies don’t fear us. Then he clinched his fist to show us how fearsome he can be.
8. Santorum would combat global warming by taking a bunch of manufacturing jobs from China, bring them here, and imposing tariffs. “Huzzah!” said Reed Smoot.
9. Jindal says it’s okay to clap for him, after audience had just given him a weak clap.
10. Graham says he’s tired of losing. Says how can Republicans lose to the other party? Says Bernie went on his honeymoon to USSR and I don’t think he’s coming back.
11. Why does Graham always sound like he’s on the verge of crying?
12. In conclusion, this debate didn’t matter at all, and all four should drop out. If I ranked them, I’d go Graham, Pataki, Jindal, Santorum. Four guys who are unpopular in their home states.
And 56 things I learned on the primetime debate
Participants: John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul.
1. Why on Earth is CNBC polling the audience as to who they think will win the debate?
2. Carly Fiorina rocking the purple dress. What do you bet Hillary wears purple at the next debate?
3. First question is the lamest job-interview question ever. “What’s your biggest weakness?” CNBC demonstrating early how they’re going to treat the prime-timers.
4. Kasich ignores the question, gives an opening statement.
5. Huck’s weakness is he tries to live by the rules. Jeb’s is that he can’t fake anger.
6. Rubio does a pivot, gives what sounds like opening remarks.
7. Trump says he’s too trusting, and when they let him down, “I never forgive!”
8. Carson already resembling David Alan Grier’s portrayal of him more and more.
9. Carly Fiorina gives big smile then gives her opening remarks.
10. Cruz’s biggest weakness is that he may not be the guy you want to get a beer with, but he’ll drive you home.
11. Christie had decent opening line that was totally unrehearsed. *cough*
12. John Harwood asks incredibly rude question to Trump, asks him if he’s comic-book-version of presidential candidate. Trump then repeats his spiel about how he’ll make Mexico pay for a border wall.
13. Harwood then gives an even more rude follow-up. Unbelievably embarrassing.
14. Becky Quick asks Carson about specifics on his tax plan, interrupts him to point out he’d have to cut government 40%. He says “Nuh-uh.” She says “Uh-huh.”
15. Kasich blasts “fantasy tax schemes.” He deals in reality, starts talking about his record in Congress balancing the budget, as Ohio governor balancing the budget. “We can’t elect someone who doesn’t know how to do the job.” He deserves to be in the top six.
16. Trump says Kasich got lucky with fracking. Audience groans. Then he blasts Kasich for being on the board of Lehmann Brothers, slams his poll numbers. Kasich points out Ohio energy diversity, says he was not on Lehmann’s board.
17. Cruz sounds credible defending his tax plan. The opposite of Carson.
18. Fiorina points out we have a Seventy. Three. Thousand. Page. Tax code. She said she’d cut it down to three pages. Quintanilla snarked “You going to shrink it down to really small print?”
19. Carl Quintanilla questions Rubio on his missed votes. Rubio turns it into a critique of the GOP establishment and the Sun-Sentinel being hypocrites. Smooth.
20. Jeb Bush jumps in and says Marco should show up to work. Marco puts his boot in Jeb’s face and gives a masterful comeback.
21. Harwood points out how Jeb’s campaign is floundering; Jeb doesn’t let him get away with his framing of the question.
22. You know, the CNBC moderators were pretty decent with the afternoon debate. Now they’re in primetime and they’re awful. They deserve every ounce of criticism that’s going to come their way.
23. Fiorina is doing a good job defending her seemingly indefensible record at HP.
24. Cruz says the questions that have been asked in this debate illustrate why Americans don’t trust the mainstream media. Pauses for applause that oh yes, he receives. Then he gets upset when they don’t let him answer the original question, which was about the debt limit.
25. Paul points out the government spends a million dollars a minute.
26. Christie and Huck take turns talking about how the government has stolen money out of Social Security. Huck says it’s immoral if we don’t “keep our promise to seniors.”
27. Cruz is allowed to chip in, and he agrees with both of them.
28. Trump defends his bankruptcies as badly as he did in the last debate. “I use the bankruptcy laws to my advantage.” “Nobody can solve debt problems like me.” Kasich does double-take.
29. I wonder how many Carson supporters are watching this debate. He disappears during each answer.
30. Christie pointing out the selective prosecutions from the DOJ. We give GM a pass, but we disgrace David Petraeus?
31. Jeb Bush really lacks confidence. I can’t imagine millionaire donors are happy with his performance.
32. Fiorina illustrating how big and powerful companies/banks/people use the big and powerful government to their advantage. “Big government favors the big and powerful over the small and powerless.”
33. Rubio: “I didn’t inherit any money from rich parents.”
34. Kasich wants to reform corporate welfare. Reiterates he has a roadmap to balancing the budget.
35. Cruz and Fiorina point out how Obama’s economy has actually been bad for women.
36. Carson believes the Constitution protects everyone. He also believes marriage is between a man and a woman. The Left perpetrates the “myth” that if you believe in traditional marriage, you’re a homophobe.
37. Quintanilla brings up some company that had some bad practices. Carson said he’s not involved. Quintanilla asks if him being on their homepage speaks to Carson’s lack of vetting. Audience boos loud enough that Carson doesn’t need to answer.
38. Rubio wants to bring back vocation training and education.
39. Trump says Quick got her Mark Zuckerberg quote wrong, she says where did I read this then. Trump: “I don’t know, you people come up with this stuff.” Good laugh line. (But she got it from his own website).
40. Rubio: “The Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC. It’s called the mainstream media.”
41. Rick Santelli comes in to ask Cruz about the Federal Reserve. Cruz wants to “Audit the Fed” and that he was proud he co-sponsored Ron Paul’s original bill. Rand Paul thanks Cruz for sponsoring his bill. Says he doesn’t believe the Fed should be able to lobby Congress.
42. Ah, Huck’s going to bring up the runaway blimp first.
43. Harwood mischaracterizes Rubio’s tax plan. Rubio calls him on it. Harwood denies it, although Harwood tweeted out a correction two weeks ago.
44. Kasich tries to talk about his tax plan, moderators won’t let him. Cruz jumps in to praise his tax plan. Then moderators ask him about marijuana. He says sending mixed signals to kids about drugs is disastrous. I think he just equated marijuana and heroin.
45. Trump says he has a concealed-carry permit and that he sometimes does carry a gun on him. Well, I learn something new every day. Quintanilla points out some Trump properties are gun-free zones. Trump says he’d consider changing those policies then.
46. Harwood asks Huck, as a pastor, if he sees Trump as someone with the “moral authority” to be able to be president. Crowd boos. Huck says he doesn’t need to give Trump any more time, says Trump’s a nice guy. Trump says “Thank you.” Huck points out how he’s the only who’s fought against the Clinton Machine for the past 26 years.
47. I’ve noticed that Trump is merciless in attacking his critics, but he is also gracious whenever someone pays him a compliment.
48. Christie makes the case that Obama’s been anti-cop. Cops are afraid to do their jobs now.
49. Fiorina says we have 400,000 small businesses forming every year, but 470,000 go out of business every year because of ObamaCare, and she was going to list off more things but then the moderator cut her off.
50. Kasich has some weird ticks while he’s listening to his question. I can see that turning some people off.
51. Jeb Bush is good at fantasy football, but he’s against gambling. Christie balks. “We’re $19 trillion in debt and we have ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and we’re talking about fantasy football?!”
52. The CNBC moderators constantly interrupt and don’t allow discussion when candidates are ready to talk to each other. Christie slaps down Harwood. “Even in New Jersey, what you’re doing is rude.” Good laugh line. But really, why can’t they let the candidates talk?
53. Huck says we need to focus on chronic diseases. We don’t just have a health-care problem; we have a health problem. If we eradicate cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc., then we’ll save Medicare.
54. Rubio: “My mother’s on Social Security and Medicare. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”
54. Cruz’s closing remarks are about who will stand up to Washington. He’s done it. Conveniently leaves out that his government shutdown stunt didn’t really accomplish anything.
55. Fiorina points out “in your heart of hearts” you want to see a debate between her and Clinton.
56. Trump says CNBC was going to make the debate three hours. He negotiated it to two. Harwood says it was always going to be two hours. Trump and the audience don’t believe him.
And we’re done. So let’s see, how did everyone do?
1. MARCO RUBIO – My goodness, he was prepared. He had some great one-liners in there, but his best moment was probably when Jeb Bush tried to make an issue of his senate record. Rubio made him look foolish by pointing out he’s only bringing it up because someone told him it’d be good for him to attack Rubio. He made a great case that he’d be a good one to represent the party in those three debates next fall against Hillary Clinton.
2. TED CRUZ – He was the first one to criticize the CNBC moderators, and it paid dividends for the rest of the night. He threw out plenty of red meat for primary voters, but he wasn’t as off-putting as he’s been in earlier debates. (I didn’t buy his closing argument, but I’m sure I’m in the minority of Republicans on that one.) Rubio is third and Cruz is fifth in most polls, but I think they’re going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack for a clear top four.
3. CHRIS CHRISTIE – His line about fantasy football is probably going to be the one that lasts, where he wanted to talk about serious issues and yet we’re talking about this. Christie has a little more optimism in his performance and really seemed to enjoy his good fortune at not being at the very edge of the stage.
4. CARLY FIORINA – She was solid, she was competent, I would like to see her debate Hillary one on one, but I don’t think she was able to truly differentiate herself. And yet she had the most amount of speaking time. I’m not really seeing any buzz about her this morning, though.
5. DONALD TRUMP – He was calmer. Sure, most of his answers are still just word salads, and I don’t see how he can accomplish all these promises he’s making, but he didn’t have any groan-worthy answers like backpedaling on Carly’s face.
6. JOHN KASICH – I wanted him to do better, because he has the best track record of any of them when it comes to success in elected office, but his decision to come out angry and attack the others backfired, and I think his body language subtracted from his actual answers.
7. MIKE HUCKABEE – Yes, Mike, we should cure cancer and Alzheimer’s and so on. It would bring down health-care costs if those were cured. People are working on that. What are you going to do now?
8. RAND PAUL – Being the most libertarian of the group is a niche, but he has yet to display the charisma necessary in these modern-day US politics. He’s just not a compelling messenger on stage. He’s lucky next month’s debate is keeping the low 2.5% threshold in place.
9. BEN CARSON – I thought he was terrible. He’s started to get first place votes in some polls over Trump, but he just doesn’t seem to have any idea how to actually do the job as president. I don’t see it.
10. JEB BUSH – Without question, this debate was worse for him than any other candidate. He needed to land some punches and have some shining moments, and none came. His attempt to swipe at Rubio felt like the biggest debate backfire since Al Gore thought it’d be intimidating if he stood too close to George W. Bush.
11. REINCE PREIBUS – He needs to focus on getting the next few debates to be more substantive. Raise the threshold a percentage point for who gets to be in primetime and in the afternoon. Break away from this restrictive time limits so that candidate can actually talk through the issue they’re debating. When they limit themselves like this, it’s most often not a debate. It’s a time for talking points and “let me finish.”
12. CNBC – The moderators, especially John Harwood, were disgraceful. Long-winded and rude. They were so bad, the candidates decided to unite and be nicer to each other because they knew they were in hostile territory. I suppose it can be a good thing, so they’re prepared for Candy Crowley-style “gotcha” moderation next year.