Election 2020

GOP Debate Wrap-Up: No Clear Winner, But a Couple of Losers

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush participate during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate finally moved the needle on…kidding, I don’t think any voters were swayed to switch candidates, and I’m not sure there were any performances to close the deal with undecided voters. As I said on Twitter, there wasn’t a clear winner, and anyone who says there was came to that conclusion before the debate.

Donald Trump was somewhat more subdued for much of the debate, and actually seems like he wants the job as much as the attention now. His “I’m leading in the polls” mantra didn’t get the raucous applause that it usually does but, all in all, he’s the front-runner and all he had to do was not screw up, and he didn’t .

Marco Rubio was…animated. It seemed as if he was determined to make sure Trump never, ever had an opportunity to call him “low energy.” He began crafting a workable narrative for why he’s evolved on illegal immigration but his finest moment came when he refused to back down from the idea that President Obama’s real gun agenda ends with confiscation, saying: “I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in this country, he would.”

Ted Cruz rambled a little too long sometimes (lawyers!) but kicked off the night with a couple of jabs at the media, thanking Maria Bartiromo for passing along a “hit piece from the New York Times” regarding his campaign loan in 2012 and telling Neil Cavuto that he was glad to be focusing on the important issues when asked about Trump’s birther fetish. Cruz and Trump are the only two candidates who consistently call out the media for their nonsense and they both happen to be leading in the polls.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for the other candidates.

Speaking of the MSM, Politico was upset at what they called “batting practice” questioning. They even went so far as to highlight the tweets of left-wing journos who don’t work for them. Essentially, they’re mad that no one was asked why he hated poor people and wouldn’t give them free birth control if elected president.

I thought the questions were too much in the one-on-one “he said this about you” instigation vein and not focused enough on issues.

These three had a very good night overall, which is why I say there was no clear winner.

On the loser side, I’m not sure what Ben Carson is still doing here. Yes, I like and respect the man, but his campaign sprung several leaks in December and has been taking on water ever since. His answers to questions are very “Huh?”-inspiring and he really doesn’t seem to want to be here anymore. In his closing statement, he finished with a rousing mention of his website.

If John Kasich makes it to the next primetime debate stage, just stand him in a corner and have him hold a sign that says “OHIO.” We all know why he’s there and there is no reason to pretend we’re at all interested in his policy positions. Earlier this evening I chronicled the Twitter reaction to the mailman’s son.

Jeb! wasn’t awful, which is a step up for him but we really need to stop pretending that this is happening. Florida is lovely in the winter, Jeb, go home.

Christie was combative because that’s his thing. Tough luck for him that he picked the one election that featured a candidate who could beat him at his own game. He’ll hang around at least until New Hampshire, obviously.

I said there were a couple of losers (Kasich and Carson) in this debate, but there were three for the night. Rand Paul did himself no favors by sitting out the earlier debate. It made him seem petty, which no one ever accused him of being before this campaign. I didn’t even think of him until someone tweeted me that he was learning a lot watching Paul on Periscope. That was just sad. At this point it’s probably a tossup between him and Carson for who exits next.

One more thing, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was getting a lot of favorable mentions throughout the evening, which indicates that she’s moved into the forefront of a lot of the candidates’ minds as a possible VP pick. It will be easier to combat Hillary’s inevitable sexism defense in the general election with a woman in the VP slot who can deflect that nonsense and be on the offensive all the time. Carly would probably be better in that role but the field is obviously warming up to Haley.

The American people were the clear winners tonight. We still have some viable alternatives to the geriatric clown show the Democrats are forcing on the American people.

I’ll leave you with a couple of video highlights. The first is Rubio’s aforementioned explanation on immigration, the second is Cruz’s money line about polls and Trump’s birther attacks.