10 Take Aways From the Third Debate

After watching the debate and re-watching it and reading and listening to all the punditry here and elsewhere, these are my views:

1. CNBC really sucked.  This was supposed to be a debate about the economy.    Where fantasy football fits into that scheme defies explanation.  The moderators were perhaps the worst of the lot thus far   The criticism heaped upon them is warranted.  [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] was absolutely right to take them down since the questioning, at many junctures, had very little to do with its advertised subject matter.

Anyone standing on that stage is more accomplished than Clinton who has been running for President for the past 25 years.  The moderators treated the candidates like it was a “cage match.”  Perhaps they were trying to recreate the ratings bonanza from the first Fox debate or trying to create the same post-debate buzz.  It did create a buzz, but not a good one.  If anything, CNBC proved that the trio of John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick cannot hold a candle to Megan Kelly and company.  When even CNN does better, that is not saying much for the NBC brand.  If they- not the candidates- are the subject of post-debate punditry, they failed.

2. The RNC is partly at fault.    Anything with the letters “NBC” in it should be suspect when it comes to a GOP debate and Reince Priebus has to take some of the blame despite his criticism of CNBC during and after the debate.  However, sometimes you have to enter the lion’s den and take on the lion.  Pew Research notes that 75% of Americans get their political news from the three major networks and their affiliates, like CNBC.  In a general election, at least one of the debates if not all of them will be carried by and have moderators from the three major networks.  It is a risk that may be worth taking knowing that the mainstream media is in the pantsuit pocket of Hillary Clinton.

That makes Cruz’ attack in the debate almost genius.  It is like having a fighter behind enemy lines.  What better way to take down the mainstream media than by using the mainstream media as the vehicle to do it?  If Priebus’ goal was to unite 10 candidates on that stage, he succeeded.  Personally, I do not think he is that shrewd.

3. “See how they run…:” the media circles the wagons.  And it became almost instantly obvious by the media’s reaction that Cruz, Rubio, Christie and others delivered a body blow.  A perfect example is a recent article in The New Yorker by Amy Davidson.  Describing the Cruz “attack,” she mentions that the question asked was about the debt limit.  She then said Cruz ignored the question to jump into his indictment of the moderators.  Was Cruz or anyone expected to stand there like dolts and take the insulting line of questioning?  Davidson’s article is typical of many others in that it decries the fact that the candidates often went off topic, but when the moderator’s questions were off topic, they remain silent.  She criticizes Christie for mentioning ISIS in a debate about economic issues.  Really?  Fantasy football is an economic issue of vital concern?

Whether the print media or network television, after alleged soul-searching, they are slowly coming to the aid of CNBC and the moderators with the usual qualifiers which try to convince us they are even-handed.  The next debate will be sponsored by the Fox Business Network and will likely be focused on the economy.  One can almost guarantee it will be better since there is no obvious agenda to tear down any candidate.

4. Bush is not quite toast, but he is in serious trouble.  For a candidate leading in the money and endorsement race, Bush’s campaign is off-kilter.  He did nothing to right the ship in this debate.  The ill-advised attack on Rubio seriously back-fired and we did not hear from him for another half hour.  For someone who many believed would emerge from this race, that is not good news.  Which proves a point: dollar bills do not vote and endorsements do not count for squat these days.  Unless something drastically changes (and this writer believes nothing will change) Jeb Bush will be out of this race a lot sooner than he or others thought.  There are two final points: (1) Bush will likely not be the nominee and (2) if he is, then say hello to the second President Clinton.

5. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] is for real.  His take down of Bush was classic Rubio by turning the tables.  He has had memorable lines in all three debates now.  Hillary could take a cue from Rubio regarding authenticity.  As for “it not being his turn,” who decides when it is anyone’s turn?  And those non-votes?  While he has missed many floor votes since he launched his campaign in April, this is hardly out of the ordinary.  Sitting Senators like Obama, Clinton and McCain have done so in the past and Rubio’s statistics are not out of the norm.  And of those votes he missed, the average vote margin difference is 45.6 meaning whether Rubio voted or not would not have made a difference one way or the other.  More importantly, he has been present for the most important votes.  Hence, this line of attack started by Trump and furthered by Bush is much ado about nothing.  And screw the Florida newspapers.

6. Beware the Cruz.  I forget where, but some pundit predicted Rubio and Carson would be the last two standing.  I would not count out Cruz.  He is running a deft campaign and seems to be lying in the weeds waiting to pounce.  He has the money.  He has proven that he can overcome the odds.  He is by no means dumb and likely to make a slip-up (reason: he is principled).   He shredded those moderators and never looked back.  With increased exposure, he will prove that he is not the red meat-eating fire-breathing conservative monster as the Leftist media portrays him.  I am agnostic when it comes to Cruz, but I definitely respect him and am gaining an increased appreciation for him.

7. Another look at Christie?  In all three debates thus far, Christie has done well and delivered some great lines in his limited time.  Unfortunately, he cannot seem to build on that after a debate.  He has basically stagnated, but I hope he stays in at least through New Hampshire just so he can deliver some more good lines and throw some more punches.  And he will be a great campaigner against Hillary for the eventual GOP nominee.

8. What happened to Carly?  She won the under card in the first debate.  She was at least the co-winner in the second prime time debate.  Maybe it was the moderators or the questions, but she was rather inconsequential this time around.  Expect a drop in the polls.

9. Trump is good entertainment and a ratings bonanza.  Not in a clownish way, but for his off-the-top-of-his-head comments.  He pretty much shut Kasich up.  He nicely dissed Becky Quick even though she was, after all was said and done, correct about the Rubio-Zuckerberg quote.  No one is talking about that; they are talking about Trump’s put down.

10. John Kasich ain’t all that.  So this is the new, not-so-nice-and-positive Kasich?  There was enough to dislike about him before the debate and even more afterwards.  He reminded me of a drunk, grumpy uncle at Thanksgiving.  He may be gubernatorial, but certainly not presidential material.  Please, John, end it now before you make a further fool of yourself.