After the second debate, every candidate claimed they achieved what they set out to do. Flash polls taken immediately after the poll gave the victory to either Trump or Fiorina which is interesting since they had perhaps the best dust up although Fiorina clearly had the more memorable lines. Flash polls mean very little; they are initial reactions to what happened and have no bearing on anything. For Trump to herald these polls- whether from Time magazine or Drudge- gives him a talking point, but nothing else.
This writer has been following both polling data and Vegas/UK odds on the nomination since April of this year. The following chart indicates where each candidate stood at various points in time with respect to the odds. They were gauged immediately after the debate (sort of a flash poll odds) and 1-2 weeks later when the dust settled, there was follow up and the pundits had their say.
|Bush, Jeb||5 to 2||2 to 1||2 to 1||5 to 2||2 to 1||2 to 1|
|Carson, Ben||45 to 1||24 to 1||25 to 1||16 to 1||11 to 1||11 to 1|
|Christie, Chris||10 to 1||14 to 1||19 to 1||22 to 1||24 to 1||23 to 1|
|Cruz, Ted||40 to 1||24 to 1||25 to 1||22 to 1||24 to 1||25 to 1|
|Fiorina, Carly||75 to 1||37 to 1||33 to 1||31 to 1||14 to 1||11 to 1|
|Graham, Lindsey||100 to 1||41 to 1||99 to 1||51 to 1||57 to 1||65 to 1|
|Huckabee, Mike||25 to 1||31 to 1||19 to 1||21 to 1||27 to 1||25 to 1|
|Jindal, Bobby||33 to 1||26 to 1||54 to 1||50 to 1||54 to 1||62 to 1|
|Kasich, John||40 to 1||30 to 1||14 to 1||19 to 1||12 to 1||12 to 1|
|Pataki, George||100 to 1||60 to 1||100 to 1||65 to 1||77 to 1||77 to 1|
|Paul, Rand||8 to 1||7 to 1||19 to 1||13 to 1||27 to 1||28 to 1|
|Perry, Rick||50 to 1||24 to 1||75 to 1||46 to 1||WITHDREW||WITHDREW|
|Rubio, Marco||12 to 1||3 to 1||8 to 1||6 to 1||5 to 1||5 to 1|
|Santorum, Rick||100 to 1||65 to 1||85 to 1||52 to 1||63 to 1||78 to 1|
|Trump, Donald||100 to 1||55 to 1||10 to 1||6 to 1||4 to 1||4 to 1|
|Walker, Scott||5 to 2||4 to 1||3 to 1||6 to 1||9 to 1||SUSPENDED|
Before looking at each candidate, a word on the debate format. Tapper may be a rising star on CNN, but he proved that he lacks the mettle to moderate a debate. Not that I particularly like and/or listen to the others, but Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt were stage props. While the focus should be on the candidates, not the moderator, Tapper allowed the debate to turn into a talk-over-each-other affair where no points were made. People (Trump) were complaining about the length of the debate- three hours. That is understandable and excusable when you have eleven people standing on the stage. But, not giving equal time to each candidate in terms of questions and responses serves no one- candidates, viewers or voters. Thirty-second responses by each to a common question would have been better. In a 3-hour debate- assuming 30 minutes in commercials- each candidate would have gotten at least 32 questions allowing for a wide variety of topics to be discussed. That could be reduced by moderator flexibility in follow up questions. Some might argue that would resemble a job interview, not a debate. Not really. Everyone of those candidates agrees the Iran deal is a bad one. They all also proclaim to be pro-life. A simple trip to the Internet allows people to learn a candidate’s position. More importantly, what would they do to reverse the Iran deal or advance a pro-life agenda? It could be done- Carly Fiorina eviscerated Planned Parenthood and Putin in less than 30 seconds.
Now, let’s look at each candidate in alphabetical order:
Jeb Bush: The odds makers remain bullish on Bush likely because of his fund raising abilities knowing that the general election will be a costly endeavor. The debate did not hurt Bush and if putting breaks on the Trump Train was the goal, I guess we can call it a success.
Ben Carson: Personally, this writer was somewhat upset with his debate performance. Still, his pre-debate momentum is carrying him thus far.
Chris Christie: Redstate counted him among the winners and he scored some interesting points. The back-and-forth with Paul over marijuana gave an opportunity for Fiorina to have one of the most poignant moments of the debate. It also stopped Paul’s libertarian clap-trap. But, clearly the base has not forgiven Christie for past indiscretions which is weird. If you live in Jersey, you know the Left loathes Chris Christie
[mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]: Cruz finds his odds similar to Christie which is, well…odd. He is clearly higher in the polls, yet the odds makers do not see him winning the nomination.
Carly Fiorina: The consensus winner in the second debate, Fiorina sees herself surging. Her debate performance received kudos from various quarters and her lines were the most memorable. This places Trump in a tough position- he usually attacks the candidate that surges. It backfired with the now infamous “face” comment.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ]: In a debate of four, many said Graham came out the winner. The problem is the debate of four involved four candidates with no chance of winning the nomination or making the next “prime time debate.”
Mike Huckabee: The odds makers are pushing his chances further and further out. They now see him as more of a long shot than Christie.
Bobby Jindal: Frankly, he is going nowhere (unless as a VP choice) as reflected in the polls and among the odds makers. Jindal is not a bad candidate, but he is clearly overshadowed in a large field like this.
John Kasich: In response to another article, someone commented whether we can trade Kasich for Perry? I second those sentiments 100%. I clearly do not see what the interest is in this candidate other than he is a potential establishment back-up to Bush should he seriously falter.
George Pataki: I said it last time and it bears repeating: What is this guy doing here?
[mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]: In terms of the odds makers, Paul is perhaps the biggest loser thus far. He keeps drifting further and further back in the odds department and now runs behind Christie there.
[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]: Again, Rubio came out looking good from the debate. One can make a case that he was in the top three in both debates. In effect, he is holding his own. For whatever reason, however, he fails to gain momentum upwards from these performances. He clearly shined in the last hour of that debate with his foreign policy views and those on climate change. But, are those the issues gnawing at the collective angst of the Republican primary voters?
Rick Santorum: Santorum is likely staying in this race under some misguided impression that because he was last man standing against Romney in 2012, he is some “heir apparent.” This is his third shot and three is not a charm. Maybe if this was any other year, that may have been a qualification, but not 2016.
Donald Trump: This is a candidate who defies the laws of politics. I am less a believer in the poll numbers and more in the polling trends. When you are #1 in the polls, there is no way to go but down. He likely remains #1 only because of the huge lead he built up over #2. But, the trend is a loss of some support. Still, no one delivered a knock out punch, although some body blows weakened him. As the campaign progresses and we get to more specifics, it bears watching. Trump’s campaign slogan seems to be “I’m number one in the polls.” The only poll that counts is that of the actual voters.