Inside the GOP Debate Hall, Whom Did the Crowd Seem to Like the Most?

Donald Trump did himself no favors in the debate. His answers were vague, thin in substance despite quality questions designed to elicit substantive answers, and made simple factual errors. For example, he criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a terrible deal, because it would allow China to seize even more of the market in the United States for manufactured goods. Rand Paul had to remind him that China is not one of the signatories to the agreement.

Trump demonstrated a thin skin by interrupting others, then complaining when Carly Fiorina interrupted him. From inside the theater, Trump seemed unable to tell the difference between the crowd laughing with him or at him. The latter was far more often the case, at least around me in the orchestra section.

Rand Paul also received a share of audience disapproval of his foreign policy stance. That said, he gamely held to his principles, unpopular as they were (in one of the few ad hominem moments in the debate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio called him a “dedicated isolationist,” and won applause for it).

To my ears, the weakest applause during closing statements was rendered to Kasich, then Trump, and then Paul. The strongest applause: Rubio, Carson, and Cruz.