By Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, USDR.
In spite of this fundamental disdain for people with any political credentials among the GOP rank and file, there is the possibility that there was a shift in attitude as far as “winners and losers” after tonight’s CNN debate.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). In spite a very restrained reception when introduced at the beginning, Cruz was on fire throughout the evening. He knew how to speak to the camera and never missed a beat. He was the master debater that gave him a national reputation since his days in college. When anyone did challenge him, he always had the statistics to back up his statements. I think, for many, he became a “real world” alternative to Donald Trump, who simply looked very strange (even by his standards) in tonight’s debate. Since Cruz has consistently avoided attacking Trump and actually shares some of the billionaire’s values, he looked like someone who could make Trump’s agenda happen. I have argued all along that, as the debates went on, Cruz would become a force with which to be reckoned. We began to see that tonight.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Like the Fox debate of a few weeks ago, the order of the candidates was based on their support. Once again, who is leading, was in the middle. Chris Christie was on the edge. He looked like one who could fall off at any moment. Tonight, it certainly appears to have helped himself. He came across like Ronald Reagan, who as a presidential candidate received criticism for being a moderate governor and then reminded people of his political realities coming from a very liberal state. He convincingly made the discussion about the American people and worked hard to not break Reagan’s “Eleventh Commandment” of not speaking harm of another Republican. His conversation about his life in the days surrounding September 11th, 2001 and his concerns about his wife, whom he believed might have been a victim of the terror, made him seem very real and a truly sympathetic character. I will not be surprised if we find Christie a little further from the “ledge” during the next debate.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) may have had the strongest performance of the night. Every response was both clearly ad lib, but could not have been more clear and articulate if he had carefully crafted a speech. He came across as authoritative, knowledgeable, likable, and human. By the middle of the debate I waited with anticipation for when he or Cruz would speak. He has suffered in the polls, but I think tonight he got a very needed boost.
Donald Trump. I have written extensively about Donald Trump and the fact that he seems unbeatable. Tonight there may have been a chink in his armor. He did not respond particularly well to several attacks, at times one would wonder which party he stood for in light of his unorthodox views on foreign policy, and a couple zingers from opponents (particularly Fiorina on looks), left him looking wounded. It is hard to tell whether this will have any affect on voters. He has this amazing way of creating transference with many voters. Who knows, maybe their feelings were hurt too. Nonetheless, if Trump can be vulnerable (we haven’t seen it yet), this might be when we begin to see that happen.
Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). The popular Midwestern governor simply seemed out of it. His consensus — even gentle — view of the political world seemed completely out of touch from reality. His view of the Iran deal, especially in light of the alarming concerns raised by his opponents, made him seem soft and unprepared for the White House. Furthermore, the emphasis on his personal resume showed a lifetime in politics, which is something most Republican voters are not interested in. In the end, Kasich seemed tone deaf, which is one of the biggest complaints voters have in politicians.
Instead of being pragmatic yet principled, Paul chose to be ideological. His inability to denounce the Iran deal in its entirety made him look like one hedging his bets, rather than one being considered as leader of the free world.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul appeared more professorial than presidential and no one likes to get lectured. He did a great job of differentiating himself as among the smartest on the platform, but there is no evidence that intelligence is in high demand among voters. He used words that seemed more appropriate for the classroom than in a modern day political debate and he used them (typically) against Trump. He will likely seem like a bully. He also seems more committed to being right, than electable. This is the occupational hazard of being libertarian. A great example of this was his discussion of marijuana laws. He was extremely persuasive, but also polarizing. Millions of Americans have been harmed directly or indirectly by drug abuse, so his view that it only “hurts the user” does not line up with the reality of many. Instead of being blindly anti-drugs, like his opponents; or strongly for them, like his libertarian friends that were not there, he could have taken a third way. That one would be to acknowledge the war on drugs has not worked (a pretty reasonable position that has support across party lines) and that he wanted to return this issues to the states where they belonged in the first place. Instead of being pragmatic yet principled, Paul chose to be ideological. His inability to denounce the Iran deal in its entirety made him look like one hedging his bets, rather than one being considered as leader of the free world. This, again, hurt the candidate. Paul was another on the edge of not qualifying for the main stage. I’m afraid he may have jumped off the ledge tonight.
There will be debates elsewhere about how the other candidates performed, but the above were the ones that stood out, warts and all.