Aftermath of the CNN Republican debate

I watched the afternoon debate live, and I watched the primetime debate on DVR. How did everyone do? I’ll do this in order of where they currently stand in the national polls.

Afternoon

13. RICK SANTORUM – His most memorable line was “Not all Muslims are jihadis, but all jihadis are Muslim.” Santorum tried to distinguish himself by being tough on Islam. He tried to redefine it, saying it wasn’t just a religion but a governmental movement, pretty much made it sound like if we let in enough Muslims, they’re going to make us live by Sharia Law. He said World War III has already begun. I disliked Santorum in 2012; I deeply resent him now. He does the party no good by being in this race, and he absolutely does harm with some of his ridculous statements. Somebody please scream in his face that he will never be president.
When Should He Drop Out?Today

12. GEORGE PATAKI – He didn’t run in 2008 because it looked like Rudy Guiliani would win. He didn’t run in 2012 because he didn’t want to take on the incumbent Barack Obama who’d won by such a large majority in 2008. In 2016, he’s irrelevant. He seems like a smart guy. I don’t understand why he’s still in.
When Should He Drop Out?Today

11. LINDSEY GRAHAM – He made the other three on stage sound like they have no idea what they’re talking about. His war-mongering strategy suddenly looks smart in the wake of San Bernadino, but most importantly, he framed the argument against the “ban all Muslims” mentality of Santorum and Trump. His best line for me was “There are over 3500 Muslims serving in the US military. Thank you for your service.”
When Should He Drop Out?The day after Huckabee drops out

10. MIKE HUCKABEE – The moment that stuck out for me was when he said Muslims should be begging us to monitor their mosques. He said if their religion is so great, they should welcome all of us in with open arms, including the FBI, to see what they’re about. He did it in his sarcastic pandering “Who’s afraid of the big bad police state?” way. The former governor failed to capitalize on his 15 minutes of fame by embracing Kim Davis.
When Should He Drop Out?Today

Lindsey Graham can't hiude his feelings about Rick Santorum. (CNN.com)
Lindsey Graham can’t hide his feelings about Rick Santorum. (CNN.com)

Primetime

9. RAND PAUL – He barely made it to the primetime stage, and he opened by saying Trump and Rubio are wrong about terrorism. His platform seems to be no American boots on the ground in Syria. His shot against Chris Christie: “If you want World War III, there’s your candidate.” That drew applause. Then when he tried to bring up Bridgegate, it drew boos. Not very artful. But I’m glad he seems to be embracing his libertarian voice more, even if his dad won’t help him out.
When Should He Drop Out?The day after New Hampshire

8. CARLY FIORINA – She opens with “It’s time to take our country back.” How many presidential candidates have been using this line over the past few decades? Her stand-out was when she was talking about technology, how we need to make our bureaucracies competent again, and whenever she goes after Hillary Clinton. Her rattling off of the generals’ names sounded good until she said they all “retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.” Patraeus had to quit for sharing classified information with his mistress, and Keane was gone before Obama took office. For her to make some in-roads, she needs there to be fewer people on the main stage.
When Should She Drop Out?The day after Super Tuesday

7. JOHN KASICH – He opens with repeating a conversation with his daughters (cue heart-string tug, I guess?) He spoke about building consensus to destroy ISIS, but also wants to increase the powers of the NSA in the name of safety. Seems more aligned with Christie in this regard, but he also emphasized that we shouldn’t be the policemen of the world. If Kasich were about ten years younger, I think he’d be doing better, but he’s developed these weird ticks that are distracting. He’s one where I really want to like him but each debate just demonstrates why he won’t be able to win the nomination.
When Should He Drop Out?The day after New Hampshire

6. CHRIS CHRISTIE – He opens staring into the camera and letting us know that Obama and Clinton have made the world less safe. He played up his national security credentials. He had the confidence he showed at the last debate. He probably mentioned 9/11 one too many times. He also said he too would shoot down Russian planes if they entered a no-fly zone he wants to establish over Syria. He’s making great gains in New Hampshire, and he’s not hurting himself much in these debates.
When Should He Drop Out?The day after Florida/Illinois

5. JEB BUSH – He had his best performance to date. He’s learned from his previous mistakes. If he wants the nomination, he needs to take on Trump and project strength. He took on Trump, projected strength, and you could tell he got under Trump’s skin. But are there any ideas he’s projecting that no one else is? Does he come across as the best in this field for the job? I would argue some look better than others, but to overcome his last name, he needs to seem like the clear favorite, and he doesn’t.
When Should He Drop Out?The day after New Hampshire

4. BEN CARSON – He opened with a moment of silence for the San Bernadino victims, which was odd. He probably had the laugh of the night when he spoke about children who love him, and then he looked at Trump and said “I sound like him.” Another good moment for him was when he said the country was founded by citizen statesmen. His main argument seemed to be that Congress needs to declare war on ISIS so we can go about this properly. When asked if he agreed with Rubio or Paul more on metadata collection, Carson refused to answer the question. So why is he still here? He’s been steadily declining in the polls, and I don’t see that stopping.
When Should He Drop Out?The day after Iowa

3. MARCO RUBIO – Big applause line from saying that US citizens who join ISIS will be treated as enemy combatants. He come under attack more than anyone else and he managed to hold his own. He makes good use of his immigrant background to lend credibility to his hard-line immigration policy. I also liked his angle on how many of our problems with our allies is that erosion of trust.
When Should He Drop Out?Stay in for the long haul

2. TED CRUZ – Cruz’s gameplan seemed to be to get the most amount of speaking time. He interrupted others and went way over time several times. His best line was when he said he’d build a wall along the Mexican border “and I’ll get Donald Trump to pay for it.” Rubio caught him in a lie about his resume on illegal immigration, but Cruz is a good debater. He can skate past those things. He kept trying to make it sound like Rubio was in league with Obama, but when he said Rubio was using Alinsky tactics, that was just too baldfaced-obvious a dog-whistle.

When it comes to whoever the “true conservative” candidate is, it seems to be Cruz, but Cruz is a guy who strikes me as one who planned to run for president since the day he won his senate seat. He’s smarmy and off-putting. He still argues like he’s delivering a Shakespearean monologue with patriotic music swelling in the background.

I see his leadership style as similar to Obama’s in a bad way. One of the knocks against Obama is he believes he’s right, and he waits for others to come to him with that realization. I see Cruz cut from similar cloth. The only senator left in the US Senate that seems to like him is Mike Lee. Cruz loves to start battles the Republicans can’t win, then accuses them of “not fighting hard enough.” I don’t see him expanding his base of support. If he wins Iowa (and it looks like he will), then New Hampshire will recoil and either pick Trump or a less polarizing figure.
When Should He Drop Out?Stay in for the long haul

1. DONALD TRUMP – At one point, Rand Paul says Trump isn’t a serious candidate. Cut to Trump making a very unserious clowny face. At another point, Bush questioned Trump’s toughness, and for the first time, Trump looked visibly angry on stage. His comeback was citing his poll numbers. His best moment was probably when Hugh Hewitt asked him if he would run as an independent. He said no, and he went on to give a very gracious answer on how he’s been treated. His best moment may have been when he talked about his original opposition to the war in Iraq, and how much better we could have spent the $4 trillion that went to waging that war.

Then what does he do as soon as the debate is over? He goes right over to CNN’s Chris Cuomo and frames himself as the winner to the 18 million viewers who’ve tuned in. Smart.
When Should He Drop Out?Today! Stay in for the long haul

Donald Trump reminds Jeb Bush who's leading in the polls. (CNN.com)
Donald Trump reminds Jeb Bush who’s leading in the polls. (CNN.com)

Some Other Notes:

– In general, as irrelevant as the candidates in the afternoon may be, that debate brought in 5.7 million viewers, which is tremendous. The primetime debate’s 18 million makes it the third most-watched primary debate in history, behind the first two Republican debates.

– Most of the Facebook questions were there to illustrate that maybe we’d rather have professionals ask the questions. Even if one of them’s Wolf Blitzer.

– The most recent PPP poll shows that a Trump third-party run would guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency. For example, Marco Rubio beats Hillary Clinton 48%-41% in Iowa with 10% undecided. If you add Trump, Clinton wins 39%-33%, with 23% going to Trump and 5% undecided. Head to head, Clinton beats Trump 45%-43% with 13% undecided.

– The next Democratic debate is on a Saturday. It’ll only be the third debate in 2015, and the second time it’s on a Saturday. Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, their supporters, and any Democrats who want this to be a real race and not a Hillary Clinton coronation should be furious. The fix is in. It’s been in since the beginning.


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