I think we can all agree the debates last night, especially the primetime debate, were some of the most poorly moderated debates in modern presidential election history. The CNBC lost control of the second debate right after it started. But nonetheless, the candidates really got a chance to shine and actually discuss policy without having their chains yanked around by the moderators.
Here are some thoughts on the performance of each of the candidates:
Rick Santorum: He has the opportunity to explain his 20/20 flat tax plan. I encourage you all to check it out. It received positive acknowledgements from Mark Levin and Steve Forbes. The moderators questioned his support of the Export-Import Bank and even though it is something that I oppose, I still think he gave a sold defense. Overall, his performance was alright, not dazzling. He does much better in town hall meetings and campaign stops than in debates.
Bobby Jindal: He was the conservative firebrand tonight. Jindal came out swinging and full of conservative rhetoric. His overall performance was strong and he was easily the winner of the undercard debate.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ]: He was lively tonight. He came across as laid back and charismatic. Graham’s focus tonight, again, was on national security. As expected, he answered nearly every question asked of him with something relating to national security and foreign policy. The highlight of his performance was his line about Bernie Sanders.
“The No. 2 guy [Bernie Sanders] went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon and I don’t think he ever came back.”
George Pataki: I honestly can’t remember too much of what he said last night. He defended climate change and the Obama-Boehner budget deal. For a minute there it almost sounded as if he was trying to be conservative, but for most of the debate I was asking, “what is this guy doing in a Republican debate anyway?”
Overall, I can’t really see anybody from this debate moving up to the top tier. If someone from the top ten drop out (*cough* John Kasich *cough*), then maybe Santorum or Jindal could move up, but it’s a long shot.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]: He was on fire tonight! The best line of the night goes to him when he called out the moderators for trying to pit each candidate against one another. He got to explain his flat tax plan which he had just released earlier in the day. I recommend you check it out. His performance was much stronger in this debate than in the previous ones and he offered more substance as well. Cruz was one of the winners tonight.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]: He had another strong debate performance and I believe he quite possibly took the reins last night as the establishment favorite from Jeb. When Jeb Bush tried to attack him on his record, he was prepared to strike back. In fact, he was well prepared to combat nearly all of the criticism that was thrown his way, from his voting record as senator to his student loans debt. Rubio was another winner in this debate.
Carly Fiorina: She had no defining moment, but was nonetheless strong throughout the debate. She has a great ability to be able to answer questions in great, lengthy detail in a short amount of time and really comes in handy for her in these debates. I thought her explanation of crony capitalism was fantastic and overall, her performance was solid.
Donald Trump: He was more tamed tonight. He did have a few digs a John Kasich, but for the most part he did not attack the other candidates with the same intensity he does on the campaign trail. His presence on the stage wasn’t as dominating as it has been in previous debates, but he did show his usual self when calling out the questioning of the moderators.
Ben Carson: He came across as less shaky and nervous in this debate than in the previous debates. I do not think, however, that his performance was as strong. He looked like he was making stuff up as he went along when trying to defend his tax plan. Carson did, however, get a chance to call out the hypocrisy of PC culture which he always looks strong when doing. Overall, though, he did not have too many defining moments.
Jeb Bush: The only thing keeping his ship afloat after that debate is his campaign funds. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] crushed him early on and after that there wasn’t too much heard from him for the rest of the debate. He needed a strong performance, but he didn’t get it. Like I said earlier, Rubio quite possibly took the reins from his as the establishment candidate in the race.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]: He was another who needed a strong performance but didn’t quite make the cut. The only thing people will remember from him last night is his pledge to filibuster the budget deal. He didn’t say anything that will hurt him. He just wasn’t memorable.
Chris Christie: He was, dare I say it, a winner tonight. Kudos to him for calling out the moderators for asking questions about fantasy football instead of asking question about important issues such as terrorism and the economy. Christie brought his A-Game tonight.
Mike Huckabee: He was another candidate to not get much time to speak. Huckabee has good populist rhetoric that would have been appealing in another time. There was no real stand out moment for him except for maybe that blimp metaphor.
“What we had was something that government made. Basically a bag of gas that cuts loose, destroys everything in its path, leaves thousands of people powerless. But they couldn’t get rid of it because we had to much money invested in it. So we had to keep it.”
John Kasich: He was at the wrong debate. He tried to bash the other candidates by calling their ideas unrealistic. Instead of coming out looking practical and sensical, he sounded whiny and arrogant. I have only two words for him: drop out.
The biggest losers of the night were the CNBC moderators. They thought they could make the Republican candidates look bad by pitting them against each other and instead it backfired big time. The candidates (and even the crowd at some points) instead came together in the offense against the moderators and the mainstream/liberal media. There was, at times, a sense of unity on the stage and the candidates focused on addressing the pressing issues as opposed to heeding to the “gotcha questions” that were being asked. In the fight of the candidates vs. the moderators, the candidates won.