Were the GOP Debate questions fair?

Donald Trump may have had the most personal questions, but he had the most questions, period. Fox News did what moderators on any other network could not do: ask tough questions zeroing in on the weaknesses of every candidate. Anderson Cooper asks the same question, and it’s a gotcha question. If anything, Fox News raised the bar for Democrats when they have their first debate cleeeeear in October.

If I had a main criticism of the questions, and for the most part I was pleased, it was that they spent a little too much time with personal candidate questions, which meant that there wasn’t more time for candidates to address issues. For example, Walker was the only one asked about Black Lives Matter. Having said that, good candidates know how to pivot personal questions into “this is how would address this important issue.”

Early debates can affect national polls, and the national polls might be entertaining, but the real action is in the state polls for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. They’re the only ones voting in February. Then on Super Tuesday, March 1, twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia) will vote and by then, it may be all but over.

Here are the boiled-down questions for each GOP candidate in the Top 12, ranked by where they were in the polls before August 6, including the initials of the questioner. Initials indicate who asked the questions: BB is Bret Baier, MK is Megyn Kelly, and CW is Chris Wallace.

Donald Trump (YouTube)

1. BB – Raise your hand if you won’t pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee if it’s not you. Mr. Trump, you raised your hand?
2. MK – You’ve called women fat pigs, slobs, etc. in past. How would you answer Hillary’s charge you’re part of the war on women?
3. CW – Will you share with us your evidence that the Mexican government is sending its criminals across the border?
4. BB – You were for single-payer system before, but now you call ObamaCare a disaster. Why the change?
5. BB – You’ve donated to many politicians (Clinton, Pelosi). What do they do for you?
6. CW – Four of your companies have filed for bankruptcy; why should we trust you with nation’s economy?
7. MK – You’ve supported partial-birth abortion and assault weapons ban before. When did you become a Republican?
8. MK – (rebuttal) Stand on divisive language?
9. CW – How would you respond to top Iranian general, blamed for 100s of US troop deaths, visiting Moscow?
10. Closing statement

The least fair question he was asked was when Kelly threw in the “get on your knees” comment, which was an off-handed joke from Celebrity Apprentice with a friend of his. In fact, he’s called women all kinds of names, and he’s called men all kinds of names. He’s a regular insulter. That said, all of the candidates had tough questions, and it’s a matter of how you respond that shows your presidential mettle. Trump could have taken the bankruptcy question and pivoted it to what he would do to fix the economy. Instead he boasted about taking advantage of the laws so he could screw lenders out of billions of dollars.

Governor Jeb Bush (YouTube)

2nd – JEB BUSH
1. BB – Do you understand the real concern about dynastic politics?
2. CW – Do you stand by your support for earned legal status [for illegal immigrants]?
3. MK – For those who died in Iraq War, how do you look at them and say your brother’s war was a mistake?
4. BB – Do you agree with Sec. Duncan’s statement that most critics of Common Core are “fringe” critics?
5. BB – (rebuttal) Do you agree with Rubio on Common Core?
6. CW – You’ve pledged 19 million new jobs but how on Earth would you pull that off?
7. MK – An anonymous donor said you called Trump a clown and a buffoon. Is that true?
8. Closing statement

Jeb’s three weaknesses with the base are his father & brother, and his stances on immigrations and Common Core. So all of those questions came up. The questioners also tried to get him to engage with Trump and Rubio, and he was very diplomatic with how he handled them.

Governor Scott Walker (YouTube)

1. MK – Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?
2. CW – Why’d you change your position from 2 years ago on illegal immigration?
3. MK – Which Arab country not in US coalition has potential to be our greatest partner?
4. CW – Why should voters believe your job-growth plan, given your record in Wisconsin?
5. BB – If Iran deal is torn up, what then?
6. MK – Do you agree with Black Lives Matter about overly-aggressive policing? If not, why not?
7. BB – What would you do if Putin tried destabilizing NATO allies (Estonia, Latvia) like he did Ukraine?
8. MK – Any word from God?
Closing statement

Walker has one of the weaker resumes on foreign policy, and so he was asked about several aspects of it.

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) ORG XMIT: OHJMOTK
Governor Mike Huckabee (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

1. CW – You’re for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortion, so how would you win the general?
2. BB – Is government too big for any Republican to shrink?
3. CW – Explain your fair tax proposal and how it would save Social Security and Medicare?
4. CW – (rebuttal) How would you keep funding Social Security?
5. BB – How would you handle the Iran deal?
6. BB – How would you handle the issue of transgenders in the military?
7. Closing statement

Funny that he wasn’t one of the ones asked about God. Too easy, perhaps. He was asked about social issues, which can be a landmine for him when it comes to general-election appeal.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dr. Ben Carson (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

1. MK – Don’t some of your recent wrong answers on foreign policy show you’re not ready to be president?
2. MK – Would you bring back waterboarding?
3. BB – Do you agree with Huckabee’s fair tax plan?
4. CW – How would you take on Hillary in general election when it comes to Iraq?
5. BB – Would you have used force against Assad regime?
6. MK – How would you heal divide in US race relations?
7. Closing statement

Another one of the weaker candidates on foreign policy, therefore he got more foreign policy questions. It would have been nice if he and Walker hadn’t been the only ones asked about race relations.

Senator Ted Cruz (YouTube)

6th – TED CRUZ
1. CW – How can you win in 2016 when you’re so divisive?
2. CW – Will you defund sanctuary cities for violating federal law?
3. MK – You asked Chairman of Joint Chiefs how he would destroy ISIS in 90 days, so how would YOU destroy ISIS in 90 days?
4. BB – Have Russia and China committed acts of cyber war? What would you do about it?
5. MK – Any word from God?
6. Closing statement

It was fair to go at Cruz’s divisiveness, when he’s a senator that angers his own party’s leaders as much as the Democrats.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Senator Marco Rubio (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

1. CW – Why are you better prepared to be president than Gov. Jeb Bush?
2. CW – Is illegal immigration as simple as our leaders are stupid, and Mexico is sending us criminals?
3. BB – Why is Bush wrong on Common Core?
4. CW – What’s one action you could to help economic environment for small business?
5. MK – If you believe life begins at conception, how do you justify allowing exceptions (like rape)?
6. MK – What will you do for the veterans?
7. Closing statement

Setting him against Bush a lot, which is fair, as they’re both from Florida. In fact, if Rick Perry had been in this debate, I imagine he and Cruz would have been pitted against each other.

Senator Paul Rand (YouTube)

1. BB – Why so quick to blame fellow Republicans for rise of ISIS?
2. MK – (rebuttal) Stand on Patriot Act?
3. BB – Would you tear up Iran deal on Day 1?
4. MK – What will you do to ensure Christians won’t be prosecuted for their religious beliefs?
5. BB – What made you change your mind on cutting off financial aid to Israel?
6. Closing statement

Rand Paul’s willingness to interrupt may have eaten into his time, but time-keepers noted that he wound up with the fewest amount of seconds of speaking time.

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06:  Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Governor Chris Christie (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. BB – Jersey’s had nine credit downgrades. Why should we trust you with nation’s finances?
2. MK – You said Sen. Paul’s opposition to NSA’s data collection made US weaker; would you really blame him if we were hit by terrorist attack?
3. MK – (rebuttal) Fourth Amendment, or is Patriot Act legal?
4. CW – Gov. Huckabee said he can save Social Security w/o raising retirement age; is he lying?
5. BB – (rebuttal) What would you do with foreign policy?
6. Closing statement

Christie’s purple-state bluster of 2012 has lost its appeal with the base, so he had to tackle New Jersey’s financial shape, and then many of his questions were with rebuttals against Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee, though neither opponent helped elevate him.

(Credit: Fox News)
Governor John Kasich (FoxNews)

1. MK – How do we know you won’t expand every govt program the way you expanded Medicaid in Ohio?
2. CW – Is Donald Trump’s answers on illegal immigration adequate?
3. CW – How will you take on Hillary Clinton?
4. MK – If you had a gay child, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?
5. MK – Any word from God?
6. Closing statement

Gov. Kasich’s seen as weakest on government spending so they went there first. Mostly, he’s not known at all, so whatever question they threw at him, he knew he had to display competency or he’d back in kids-table debates before his candidacy could go anywhere.

Governor Rick Perry (YouTube)

1. BH – 4 years ago you said you weren’t ready. Why should someone vote for you now?
2. MM – Is Donald Trump getting the better of you?
3. BH – Are you going to break families of illegals apart?
4. MM – How will you keep the Middle East from being nuclearized?
5. BH – What would your first executive order be as president?
6. Closing statement

Aside from the first question everyone in this debate got – a variant of “why are you a loser?” – Perry was asked some open questions that would allow him to sink or swim depending on his answers.

Carly Fiorina (YouTube)

1. MM – Is the Iron Lady comparison a stretch?
2. MM – Is Trump getting the better of you?
3. MM – Which side are you on (cybersecurity vs. privacy)?
4. MM – Some of our Middle East allies funnel money to terrorists. Are you OK with us being on their side?
5. BH – What would your first executive order be as president?
6. MM – Like FDR, JFK, and Reagan before, can you inspire this nation?
7. Closing statement

I wonder if Hillary Clinton’s going to get an “Iron Lady” type question.

I didn’t analyze Santorum, Graham, Pataki and Gilmore, because I see no evidence they have any chance of winning the nomination.

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