The first GOP debate is in the books and we found out exactly nothing new. Well, that’s not entirely true. We DID discover Ohio Governor John Kasich is popular in Cleveland. Who knew? Oh and we found out Donald Trump is a self-promoting, ego-inflated Republican wannabe. Like I said at the top. Nothing new.
As for anything of substance being said? Nothing at all. The only upbeat note I can even slightly reference was the fact that Chris Wallace, called out Trump on his non-answer to an immigration question. Could he provide specific evidence of those rapists, and criminals being sent from Mexico? In a nutshell, he could not, and did not. Preferring instead to lash out at, “stupid reporters”, among others. Megyn Kelly also called out Trump on his nasty remarks about women, both during this campaign and in other venues. Trump managed to score a few points at other candidates expense, but overall was unimpressive. His bombast and bomb-throwing was shrunken next to some of the actually statistics, and facts being used by the others.
But, interestingly, it wasn’t Trump providing most of the fireworks. Rather, we saw Rand Paul jumping in immediately to blast Trump for his non-pledge to support any GOP nominees and not run as an independent, which was the very first portion of the debate. Paul and Trump clashed a few other times too, which kept me and others awake. Paul further took on Chris Christie regarding intelligence gathering. Granted Christie specifically blasted Paul for using the issue for grandstanding Senate speeches, so a retort was warranted, but the skirmish was muted by the rest of the mostly uneventful night.
Ben Carson acquitted himself fairly well, in the limited time he was heard from, and Jeb Bush managed to defend some of his positions rather well, and further explain some of his early campaign positions. Marco Rubio was okay too, taking the position that it’s not just Mexicans who use illegal means to enter the country.
Scott Walker was interesting for about a hot-second when he mentioned that the GOP candidates should be talking about Hillary Clinton, and not bashing each other. Otherwise he was very bland. Mike Huckabee? He used his prior TV experience to answer smoothly, and respond to some talking points, but didn’t stray far from his far-right base. Kasich, (who was more or less ignored during the first half of the debate), came off as a common-sense guy, who uses his communications skills fairly well. Not to mention we found out he goes to gay weddings if he’s invited. His answer on same-sex marriage and his evolving position, seemed to be well received.
As for the preliminary debate? Not much to tell. Rick Perry managed to name-check someone named Ronald Raven, and Carly Fiorina was on top of her game and was the clear winner, even though there was little of substance really brought up. Was it enough to put her into the top echelon of the candidate scrum? Hard to say for certain, but I would surmise she will get a lot more scrutiny as a result of her showing, which may be a double-edged sword. If she continues her decent showing on the stump, then she can possibly gain some ground. If she stumbles even a little bit, then she’ll be written off as a one-trick pony. She has raised the bar for herself and she needs to live up to it from now on.
Overall? Nearly impossible to pick a winner, but it has to be said that Kasich, Carson, and Rubio came off very well. All had facts, and a reasonable tone while responding to questions and articulating positions. Rand Paul seemed a little too schoolmarm-ish. Trump did nothing to help his candidacy, and may have damaged it with his bellicose tone, when seen next to others with a more measured approach. The rest of the candidates essentially took up stage space. Next time let’s see Paul, Bush, Trump, Kasich, Christie, Fiorina, Rubio, and Carson line up for a good-solid two hours of issue-driven debate. Ideally that would happen, but failing that, I suspect we’re doomed to experience more of these marathons which don’t really tell us anything at all. It wasn’t a total three-ring Circus, but it certainly was in the big-top.