Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

The 2nd Republican presidential debate is in the books. Candidates went to Simi Valley to the Reagan Library trying to break out against the current frontrunner Donald Trump.

I believe Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio were the top two candidates to make a splash during Wednesday night’s debate.

Winner: Carly Fiorina

If I had to choose only one winner from the 2nd debate I would have to say it was Carly Fiorina.  She was sharp, articulate, and well prepared. I had high expectations of Fiorina and she met them.  I was impressed with her debate performance in terms of style and substance, and she handled Donald Trump well in their exchanges.

One of my favorite responses from Fiorina was about the fight over defunding Planned Parenthood:

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

She also had a good comeback to Donald Trump’s criticism of her tenure at Hewlett-Packard:

Mr. Trump, I find it quite rich that you would talk about this.

You know, there are a lot of us Americans who believe that we are going to have trouble someday paying back the interest on our debt because politicians have run up mountains of debt using other people’s money. That is in fact precisely the way you ran your casinos. You ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people’s money, and you were forced to file for bankruptcy not once, not twice, four times, a record four times. Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you managed the finances of your casinos?

2nd place: Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio would be a close 2nd. He drew applause line after applause line. He is a masterful communicator.  He was the strongest on the primetime stage when dealing with foreign policy. Consider Rubio’s comments about a question whether Trump has the knowledge necessary to be Commander-in-Chief:

I think if you’re running for president, these are important issues, because look at around the world today.

There is a lunatic in North Korea with dozens of nuclear weapons and long-range rocket that can already hit the very place in which we stand tonight. The Chinese are rapidly expanding their military. They hack into our computers. They’re building artificial islands in the South China Sea, the most important shipping lane in the world.

A gangster in Moscow is not just threatening Europe, he’s threatening to destroy and divide NATO. You have radical jihadists in dozens of countries across multiple continents. And they even recruit Americans using social media to try to attack us here at home.

And now we have got this horrible deal with Iran where a radical Shia cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future is also guaranteed to one day possess nuclear weapons and also a long-range rocket that can hit the United States.

These are extraordinarily dangerous times that we live in. And the next president of the United States better be someone that understands these issues and has good judgment about them because the number one issue that a president will ever confront, and the most important obligation that the federal government has, is to keep this nation safe.

And today we are not doing that. We are eviscerating our military. And we have a president that is more respectful to the ayatollah in Iran than he is to the prime minister of Israel.

Continuing…

Well, you should ask him questions in detail about the foreign policy issues our president will confront, because you had better be able to lead our country on the first day.

Not six months from now, not a year from now, on the first day in office, our president could very well confront a national security crisis. You can’t predict it. Sometimes you cannot control it.

And it is the most — the federal government does all kinds of things it’s not supposed to be doing. It regulates bathrooms. It regulates schools that belong to local communities.

But the one thing that the federal government must do, the one thing that only the federal government can do is keep us safe. And a president better be up-to-date on those issues on his first day in office, on her first day in office.

Honorable mention: Mike Huckabee

I’d give Mike Huckabee an honorable mention.  Huckabee is one of the best communicators in the field. He made a mark for himself in the discussion about Kim Davis and religious liberty.

I’m not up here to fight with Jeb or to fight with anybody else.

But I am here to fight for somebody who is a county clerk elected under the Kentucky constitution that 75 percent of the people of that state had voted for that said that marriage was between a man and a woman.

The Supreme Court in a very, very divided decision decided out of thin air that they were just going to redefine marriage. It’s a decision that the other justices in dissent said they didn’t have and there wasn’t a constitutional shred of capacity for them to do it.

I thought that everybody here passed ninth-grade civics. The courts cannot legislate. That’s what Roberts said. But heck, it’s what we learned in civics.

The courts can’t make a law. They can interpret one. They can review one. They can’t implement it. They can’t force it.

But here’s what happened: Because the courts just decided that something was going to be and people relinquished it and the other two branches of government sat by silently — I thought we had three branches of government, they were all equal to each other, we have separation of powers, and we have checks and balances.

If the court can just make a decision and we just all surrender to it, we have what Jefferson said was judicial tyranny.

Huckabee made a strong point about how the federal government has a double standard when it comes to providing accommodation for religious beliefs.

We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo — I’ve been to Gitmo, and I’ve seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.

You’re telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky? What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?

2nd tier debate winner?

I don’t think there was a clear winner in the 2nd tier debate.  The top two I’d say were Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, call it a tie.  Santorum did the best job pointing out differences.  He also was very strong on foreign policy  He won direct exchanges with Lindsey Graham and George Pataki.  His dig at Jindal on amnesty was unexpected however because I can’t recall Jindal ever saying he favored amnesty.  Jindal did the best job painting himself as the anti-establishment candidate.  He also received some of the strongest audience response.

The clearest contrast was on the issue of religious liberty with Santorum and Jindal positioning themselves as champions, Pataki and Graham, not so much.

Santorum on the Kim Davis controversy:

16 years ago, this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God. We saw her as a hero.

Today, someone who refuses to defy (sic) a judge’s unconstitutional verdict is ridiculed and criticized, chastised because she’s standing up and denying — not denying her God and her faith.

That is a huge difference in 16 years. People have a fundamental right in the First Amendment. There’s no more important right. It is the right that is the trunk that all other rights come from, and that’s the freedom of conscience.

And when we say in America that we have no room — how many bakers, how many florists, how many pastors, how many clerks are we going to throw in jail because they stand up and say, “I cannot violate what my faith says is against its teachings”? Is there not room in America? I believe there has to be room.

First, I believe we have to pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which provides that room for government officials and others who do not want to be complicit in what they believe is against their faith.

Second, we need as a president who’s going to fight a court that is abusive, that has superseded their authority. Judicial supremacy is not in the Constitution, and we need a president and a Congress to stand up to a court when it exceeds its constitutional authority.

Jindal jumps in on the Kim Davis question:

I’ve got a practical question. I’d like the left to give us a list of jobs that Christians aren’t allowed to have. If we’re not allowed to be clerks, bakers, musicians, caterers, are we allowed to be pastors….?

We’re not allowed to be elected officials. I firmly — this is an important point. The First Amendment rights, the right to religious freedom is in the First Amendment of “The Constitution.” It isn’t breaking the law to exercise our constitutional rights. America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America. It is the reason we’re here today.

The rest…

Nobody self-destructed.  I doubt anyone lost supporters as a result of this debate.  Donald Trump handled the pressure of being the front-runner well.  He was entertaining and had some great comebacks for some of his critics.  I actually think he did better this debate than in the first debate.

I still didn’t hear anything substantive however.

Ben Carson’s 2nd debate wasn’t as strong as the first, he still did well, but wasn’t as strong as Fiorina and Rubio in my opinion.

On substance, John Kasich, Chris Christie in the primetime debate took positions that will not resonate well with the base. Lindsey Graham and George Pataki also I don’t think made any inroads, and I believe Pataki’s campaign is on its last legs.  If there was a comedian award to give that would go to Graham.  He has a great wit and is extremely funny.  He’s just dead wrong on numerous issues.

Jeb Bush had some great exchanges with Donald Trump, but there wasn’t anything that stood out in his debate performance.

The biggest problem for the GOP field is getting noticed in the shadow of Trump. I would be very concerned if I were Rand Paul.  He was pretty much a non-entity in this debate.  Ted Cruz didn’t make much of a mark in this debate either.  His answers were solid, but we rarely heard from him.  Scott Walker also had some good answers, but nothing really jumped out.  All three men are going to have to figure out how they can break through in the next debate.

 

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