Thoughts on the first GOP debate of 2016

—Cruz started out the debate the right way, framing the narrative on his terms. He was able to make his point about the sailors stuck in Iran while still having time to answer the question on the economy

-Christie gave a strong reply to the question about the use of military force. He looked presidential

–Rubio has good soundbites but is a little too intense

-Carson went off on a tangent about dirty bombs and EMPs but lost the audience. He seems out of his league on foreign policy as usual

-Cruz did a great job defending himself against the NYT hit piece. He does a good job of using humor to deflect attacks

-Cruz destroyed Trump on the birther issue. That was only the 2nd time someone drew blood on Trump in a debate, the first being Fiorina when she defended herself from Trump’s attacks on her looks.
Cruz made Trump look silly for even making the birther issue an issue, and exposed him as someone who will say anything to win once his poll numbers drop

–This was effectively the end of the detente between Cruz and Trump and I for one am happy to see Cruz finally go after Trump. He’s not attacking him personally, he’s just making observations about what Trump is doing and exposing why he’s doing it. Also, he’s not really attacking Trump, he’s just defending himself.

-Cruz really got under Trump’s skin, that much was clear. It just shows how thin skinned Trump really is. The one thing that will anger Trump more than anything is to say he doesn’t have the best poll numbers, cause the entire rationale for his candidacy is that he wins and that he’s the most popular with voters. If that’s questioned, it questions his entire motivation and reasons for being in this race at all, and that’s not something Trump wants to face.

–the audience was clearly with Cruz and Trump hated it, that’s why he pretended they were on his side, he couldn’t handle the fact that the audience sides with Cruz on this issue and want it to be over
-Rubio used the Trump vs Cruz debate to his advantage, jumping in and reframing the debate.
-For the first time I’ve seen in a debate, Rubio got flustered. It happened when Cavuto asked him to defend his attacks on Christie. He was gonna go into another talking point spiel about how bad Obama is but Cavuto reminded him that that wasn’t the question he asked him, and it appeared to throw Rubio off his game. He stuttered and messed up his talking point about Obama funding PP and not the military.

–This debate was the first time I saw Rubio get straight up owned and put in his place. On my list of candidates, Rubio has always been above Christie, but I gotta say, Christie destroyed him in this debate. Not only did Marco apparently have his facts wrong, but Christie exposed his hypocrisy on making attacks.

His point about how Marco called him a conservative reformer two years ago and is now calling him a liberal was particularly devastating and showed that Rubio is willing to say anything to get elected.

This debate might help Christie move ahead of Rubio in NH, cause between him and Rubio, he clearly came away looking more confident and presidential

–The look on Rubio’s face after Christie demolished his talking points was priceless. That was the first time I thought he looked defeated in a debate, and it didn’t help that he didn’t get a chance to respond. It appeared he didn’t even want to respond, cause I don’t think he was prepared for that line of attack from Christie. I don’t think there was any way he could defend his previous remarks and how he did a 180 on them.

-Carson completely dodged the question about Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct

-Christie is dominating this debate so far. His answer on gun control wasn’t accurate cause he didn’t explain his past support for strict gun control laws, but it was masterful cause he used the question to pivot to an attack on Obama

-I think Cruz chose the wrong line of attack when he said Trump has NY values. It’s too divisive and allows Trump to take the moral high ground and pretend to be offended, while defending all New Yorkers.

Also, it makes the debate about being liberal vs conservative, but the people who are supporting Trump don’t care if he’s a liberal or not, they only care if he wins and gets things done as president. So I think this was a miscalculation by Cruz, and he needs to find a better line of attack on Trump.

-I hate to admit it, but Trump owned Cruz on the subject of NY values, but even then it appeared the crowd just wasn’t with Trump. They agreed with Cruz that Trump has NY values. After all, it was SC and they knew exactly what Cruz was referring to.

-Christie gave a powerful answer to the question of whether or not Assad needs to be taken out. He’s the only one who’s consistently attacking Clinton and Obama instead of his opponents, and it made him look the most presidential and not petty.

-Christie, Rubio, and Cruz all gave strong answers on how to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis and how to defeat ISIS

-So far I’ve learned absolutely nothing from this debate. It’s becoming all about soundbites and rhetoric and not about policy differences between the candidates, and that’s a shame. Maybe if more candidates drop out and there are fewer people on the stage, they’ll have more time to actually get into in depth discussions and have a real debate for once.

-Cruz gave a great answer on the issue of dealing with China and tariffs. He didn’t attack Trump or Jeb but instead used both of their points to agree with them and to pivot to his own tax plan.

-I think Cruz and Rubio both made good points about their tax plans, and were even in that exchange. I think it went over the heads of most voters, who’ve never even heard of a VAT.

-On the entitlement question, once again Christie straight up embarrassed Rubio. He pointed out that Rubio dodged the question and only talked about his tax plan

-Rubio dodged the question about his gang of 8 bill and how he’s changed on immigration

-Cruz made a good point about how Rubio is saying he only changed his position on immigration because of the emergence of ISIS, when in fact the problem of radical jihadists trying to sneak into the US started long before ISIS became a force to be reckoned with. Cruz exposed Rubio’s explanation as a lame excuse to cover up the real reason he changed his stance on immigration, which is because he knew he couldn’t hold that stance and win the GOP nomination.

-Cruz clearly got under Rubio’s skin, but he took Cruz’s attacks way too personal and came off as petty and mean-spirited.

-Rubio landed some punches on Cruz and put Cruz on his heels. Unfortunately, Cruz came off as too defensive. He should’ve handled it like Reagan did, with humor, and calmly respond to each point without making it a personal fight.

-The exchange between Rubio and Cruz on immigration exposed everything I hate about these debates. It was filled with soundbites, and neither candidate had nearly enough time to respond to all the points and attacks the other candidate made against them.
-Even though I’m not a Christie fan, I try to stay objective when I analyze politics and these debates, and if I’m objective, I have to say Christie was the clear winner of this debate, at least imo.  Rubio was the only one who even attempted to attack him and it backfired just about as bad as Jeb’s attack on Rubio backfired. Nobody else even touched Christie, and he made a lot of good points, while using every opportunity to attack HIllary and Obama.

-To me the winner of a debate is the candidate who has the most positive effect on their poll numbers going forward, or who moves the needle the most in their direction.  That candidate was Christie imo.

I know many people think it was Cruz, and he had a great debate, but I don’t think he persuaded any new voters to vote for him, or won any of Trump’s supporters.

It’s clear to me now that if Christie ran in 2012, he would’ve ran away with the nomination over Romney. I think after this debate, some people might be switching from Rubio, Bush, and Kasich to Christie.

Cruz was second imo, he made really good points and held his own against the attacks from Rubio and Trump, but didn’t really have a breakout moment, and Trump drew blood on him with the response to Cruz’s statement on his NY values.

I’ll say Trump was tied for 2nd. As usual, he wasn’t very articulate, but he didn’t make any gaffes and had a direct hit on Cruz. Cruz owned him on the birther issue, but Trump’s supporters won’t care about that, so because of the fact that Trump is still the frontrunner and won’t lose any support after this debate, he came in 2nd.

Rubio was 3rd. He was articulate, as always, and defended his plans well, but Christie really weakened him in this debate, and it diminished his presence.

Everyone else on the stage was irrelevant and has no chance of winning the nomination, so I won’t even mention them.

A few pieces of advice I would give to the Cruz campaign:

First, he has to find a way to get away from these personal battles, with Rubio and now with Trump.  It doesn’t help him in the polls, and can only make him look bad.  When Rubio or Trump attacks him in the next debate, he should have a quick rebuttal ready and then pivot to talking about his own optimistic vision for the country and describe the concerns the average american has and how he’d solve them.

Second, he should take a page from Christie’s playbook and spend more time attacking Hillary and less time attacking his opponents, he’ll seem less petty and more presidential.  Maybe even throw in a compliment at the end, that can disarm an opponent, the way Christie did with Rubio.

Finally, drop the line about Trump’s “New York values” and find a more effective way of attacking him.  Actually, I think it’s best to avoid talking about Trump at all until he attacks you.  The more time you spend fighting him, the less time you’re talking about your own plans and vision for this country, and it’ll throw you off your game.  This is exactly what Trump wants.

You have to reframe the debate and fight the battle on your turf, not his.