Observations from Last Night’s Debate

Last night’s main event debate was interesting. There was no clear winner in the prime time debate. With 10 candidates on stage, I did not expect to see any single one tower over all of the others. My observations are more about which ones got my attention.

Mike Huckabee moved the ball the farthest down the field from his relative starting position. He was passionate, articulate, folksy, and very firm in his positions. He actually came across as more fire and brimstone than I was anticipating and that got attention. He referred to Reagan’s “trust but verify” and contrasted it to Obama’s “trust but vilify.”

In his closing comments he began describing someone in the race who was negative, had bad history, had changed positions, and led his hearers down the path of thinking that he was about to slam Donald Trump, then he said, “Hillary Clinton.” Even Donald Trump congratulated him on that line.

Ben Carson was a debate rookie. It was clear that this was a new experience for him and he was not as at ease as some who had much more experience. Even with that handicap he did well. There were two moments that caught my attention.

One was regarding race relations. He said that an NPR reporter asked him why he didn’t talk about race. He said that it was because he is a neurosurgeon and on the operating table he didn’t see or care about the color of the person’s skin.

The second was his closing comments where, in Will Rogers fashion, he said that he was the only one who had removed half the brain from a patient, although after visiting Washington, it might appear that someone had beaten him to it.

Marco Rubio had clear, concise, answers. He was the youngest in the group and his answers were all couched in the American Dream and what makes America great.

Ted Cruz skillfully contrasted himself against the other candidates without attacking any of them directly. He used the term “campaign conservative” to contrast with the “consistent conservative.”

He pointed out that Republicans won in the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 but Republican leadership did not keep their commitments. On foreign policy, he said, “If you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, you are signing your death warrant.”

Donald Trump was Donald Trump. He did finish most of his answers to questions in the time allowed. I honestly was a little surprised about that.

The opening question was if there was anyone on the stage who would not commit to support the eventual nominee and pledge to not run as a 3rd party candidate. That question, was disingenuous. It was posed to all candidates but clearly was pointed at Trump.

To his credit, Trump raised his hand. He views everything through the “deal” and this was a bargaining chip that he was not going to take off the table.

Donald Trump has not been the one talking about a 3rd party run. It is the media and pundits who want to obsess over that.

Trump has a scorched earth policy. If he feels that someone has not treated him fairly, he responds with name calling and attacks. We already have a President that does that.

In the long run, I do not think that approach will serve him well. In the short term, Trump knows that the media covers those fights so it’s more free publicity for him.

There was a heated exchanged between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over the NSA data mining. Pundits said that Christie came out ahead because he attacked Paul for blowing a lot of hot air in Senate chambers while Christie was out fighting terrorism.

Frankly, I was turned off by the shouting match. This was a Presidential debate, not Live Wrestling from the Arena or a Wednesday night Baptist business meeting.

When Paul said that he wanted to go after the terrorists, not Americans, Christie challenged his answer as nonsense. He asked how you would know how to find the terrorists calls without getting all of the calls. That answer was unsettling asking us to trust a benevolent government.

Rand Paul pointed back to the Constitution. Our founding fathers did not trust themselves with power. That is why we have the Bill of Rights, checks and balances, and separation of powers.

John Kasich had the home field advantage. He focused on balancing the federal budget when he was in Congress and turning the economy in Ohio around as Governor.

Jeb Bush held his own. Megyn Kelly asked a question about his serving on a Board that had donated to Planned Parenthood. I think her question was an unnecessary fishing expedition with the sole purpose of playing, “gotcha.”

Bush said that he served on the Bloomberg Foundation Board regarding education policy and he did not know about the gifts to Planned Parenthood. He emphasized his personal belief and the positions that he actually took as governor regarding right to life.

Scott Walker held his own. He had one of the good lines of the night when he said that the Russians and Chinese know more about what is on Hillary Clinton’s server than we do.

In the 5:00 PM debate, there was a lot of talk about Carly Fiorina. We might see her in the top ten for the next debate. Whose place would she take? It’s all speculation at this point.

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