photo from AP

The Second GOP Debate [Revisited]

Posted on Posted in Politics, Society

by Arturo V. Leon II

The second GOP debate, this one airing yesterday on CNN and hosted by the Ronald Reagan Library, was a long, and often spirited, affair in which a lot was said but not much was deeply explored. Yet again Donald Trump emerged as a center stage presence, even in the 6 p.m. debate that he was not a part of. But unlike the first debate on Fox News, Mr. Trump did not take over the entire debate. It would have been hard for him to do so considering the debate was more of a marathon coming in at a little over 3 hours.

Let’s look at how our predictions went:

Things to watch from the 6 p.m. debate:

  1. The candidates from the 6 p.m. debate attacking front runners and courting the Christian Right instead of attacking each other.
  2. The 6 p.m. debate candidates focusing on social issues.
  3. Sen. Graham being a military hawk. And also being a borderline robot.
  4. Gov. Pataki saying, “When I was Governor of NY we…” more than 5 times.
  5. Sen. Santorum brings up his polling numbers from 2012.

Things to watch from the prim time debate:

  1. The moderators letting the candidates go at each other a bit more than Fox News did [we are predicting this will not go well].
  2. Mr. Trump focusing less on immigration and focusing on more general terms of leadership and “making American great again.”
  3. Gov. Bush not taking Mr. Trump head on rather building on his own record. Expect a flurry of prepared answers from him.
  4. Ms. Fiorina painting herself as an outsider who can take on Sec. Clinton.
  5. The kid gloves that everybody will have with Ms. Fiorina. If any candidate stumbles in taking her head on or insults her expect everybody to bounce on that candidate as unable to take on Sec. Clinton in a general election.
  6. Gov. Walker to get more aggressive this debate.
  7. Dr. Carson will stumble on a policy question.
  8. Mr. Trump will attack the moderator if asked a foreign policy question.
  9. The field will try to chip away at Mr. Trump without engaging him directly.
  10. Gov. Kasich [Ohio] sounding moderate and reasonable but getting negative press the next day for his answer regarding Kim Davis answer.
  11. Sen. Cruz forcing the Government Shutdown to be an issue even though politically there are not enough votes to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Nor does the GOP really want to shut the government down going into an election cycle.
  12. Gov. Huckabee wedging in Kim Davis into an answer to rile up the one base he is strong with, Fundamental Christian Conservatives [boy that’s a contradictory mouthful].
  13. More than one candidate stumbling through and not answering the question of where they stand on Kim Davis.


So over all the watch list had 15 correct points to watch for, 5 points that did not occur, and 4 that where a push [which means the moderator brought up an issue before the candidate could bring it up].

Last night’s real winner was Ms. Fiorina. She showed that she belonged on the stage and answered the questions with confidence and facts not just gernalizations [we are looking at your Mr. Trump and Dr, Carson]. Sen. Rubio also had a strong performance, which makes two debates now that he has done well in. Gov. Christie also stepped up his game, although I do not know how much of that will translate into the polls but might help with fundraising. I was also impressed with Gov. Kasich’s ability to stand up and interject at the right points [but also underplayed in the media today has been his ability to stay silent or shy away from issues that would have hurt him i.e. Kim Davis & Planned Parenthood, & Gay Marriage].

The RNC needs to take notice that of the field Gov. Kasich is really the only viable option to draw votes from registered Democrats and left leaning Independents during a General Election. If the old Conservative guard where smart they would break away from Gov. Bush and start supporting him. Unfortunatly, the two strongest gerneral election candidates, Rubio & Kasich, are shaping up to be strong VP choices for this gang of 16 [11 from the main debate + 4 from the early debate + 1. Don’t forget Gov. Jim Gilmore, who is polling at 0.6%]. That is a shame because the Tea Party’s influence will ensure that the candidate chosen for the top of the ticket is weaker for a General Election. An issue the RNC is having right now is that it’s two factions, Traditional Republicans & Tea Party Conservatives, do not get energized about the other’s candidates. In reality the Republican party would be better served by splitting into four parties; Teddy Roosevelt Republicans, George H.W. Bush Republicans, Tea Party Republicans, & Libertarians.

Ok…back on topic…The real surprise was during the early debate at 6 p.m. Sen. Graham’s ability to make a splash and show some real emotion through his ridged delivery style. I would not be surprised to see forward momentum going forward for him. The last real winner of last night were the make-up artist. The AC must have been broken, or not running full blast [see losers] and compounded with standing under bright TV lights for 3 hours there was a LOT of sweating going on. President Nixon must have been watching from the afterlife yelling at the RNC. Has the party learned nothing since it’s first TV debate in 1960. After the first commercial break, however, there was a clear difference in the amount of visible sweat which can only be attributed to plenty of towels and make-up touch ups in the 3 minute window allotted for commercials.


Meanwhile, Sen. Paul, while having real positions and a [mostly] strong record to back up his claims, did himself no favors with the Republican voters who will vote during primary season. The lack of depth to Dr. Carson showed when challenged with foreign affairs experience. While his story is clearly motivational, his motive is [mostly] genuine [see his campaign travel habits and spending which cast a shadow of doubt on his motives for running], his lack of political understanding and knowledge is very apparent due to the generalized answers and lack of depth in policy based questions. The real losers is the HVAC system of the Ronald Reagan Library. due to the shear size of the hall in which the debate took place along with the huddled audience, the temperature must have risen much higher than for what the design called for. I am sure this will be tested for future debates.

If there is a moment that we will look back on this campaign cycle and say this was the begining of the end for Donald Trump I believe this debate will be that point. Last night showed that Donald Trump has yet to add any substance to his comments or positions. Instead it was a constant stream of; “I am talking to people,” “I will announce that soon,” “I will be more prepared when the time comes.” The rest of the field is strengthening their accomplishment narrative [Kasich, Christie, Cruz, Rubio, Graham] or their policy knowledge [Rubio again, Fiorina, Paul, Bush] and an obvious gap is forming between them and Mr. Trump in how they answer questions. In that gap is where the field, and the RNC powers-that-be, will begin to attack Mr. Trump.

And finally, the rest of the field that wasn’t mentioned:

Gov. Bush – Although he was more assertive he seemed frustrated most of the night. He still has not nailed the answer to, “Why do you want to be President.” He needs to find that answer soon. He also, very briefly, seemed so frustrated and personally offended by the attacks on his brother, President George W. Bush, that he seemed to flip-flop to be on the side of defending his brother [a stance he has not taken due to public opinion of W.]

Gov. Walker – He was confident and made points but was very much overshadowed by his side of the stage [ Bush, Fiorina, Kasich, and Christie].

Gov. Huckabee – He is firmly in the Evangelical-Right and positive feel good camp of the GOP. He will never be a viable General Election candidate and seems to know this. At this point he seems to be pandering to his fan base to be able to promote more speaking tours and TV appearances. He is not a candidate, he is a TV personality.

Sen. Santorum – See Gov. Huckabee. sidenote: the best part about either debate was the back and forth between Santorum and Graham. They really should do a speaking tour together. I laughed out loud during their back-and-forth. They have good comedic timing and a nice contrasting style.

Gov. Jindal – His performance in the 6 p.m. debate was weak at best. He can slapped around by both Sen. Santorum and Sen. Graham pretty good.

Gov. Pataki – It is not a good sign when a candidate gets blocked out of the 6 p.m. debate due to be overshadowed by Sen. Graham and Sen. Sandtorum. With a field of 4 every candidate should have been able to make a mark. He did not.

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