I just wanted to share some brief thoughts on the Fox News/Google GOP Presidential Debate Thursday night held in Des Moines, IA. This is the 2nd debate I’ve attended as credentialed media, and I’m not sure most people realize this, but what I see of the debate is really no better than what you watch on TV. The only advantage to for us being at the location of the debate is the opportunity to speak with either candidates or surrogates in the “spin room” after the debate.
I think this was a better debate than the first one hosted by Fox News and it seemed like the moderation was better, but that’s a pretty low bar compared to their first debate. What I’m getting tired of, and I realize it makes for more fireworks, are the questions pitting one candidate against another. Yes, I know the candidate I’m backing got the brunt of that, but even before I endorsed Ted Cruz I don’t feel like it was very helpful. Anyway, I know that’s never going to change so it is what it is.
Some thoughts on each of the candidates (in order of when they come to mind, not by any ranking).
Ted Cruz: This was not his best debate, I think the last debate in South Carolina was better. The Trump comments right at the start was a humorous way to address the question about Donald Trump not participating in the debate. His answers on immigration, Obamacare and ethanol were very good. His complaint about the questions to other candidates being directed toward and him wasn’t well received. He should have never mentioned it, and his joke about leaving fell flat. It wasn’t his finest moment, but the rest of the debate, even the question about the gang of eight bill amendments I think was fine.
Marco Rubio: This also was not Rubio’s best debate. I think he got his head handed to him on the immigration exchange between Cruz and Jeb Bush. He seemed rattled when Megyn Kelly pointed out his contradictions on amnesty. Even Bush got the better of him. I didn’t think that was possible. He had a couple of good one liners about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. He did well on foreign policy. I think his complaint about Cruz and Rand Paul voting no on NDAA rang hollow to those of us who remember there was loads of crap attached to those bills. His best moment, in my mind, was when he was referred to as a “savior of the Republican party.” Rubio replied, “there’s only one Savior and I’m not Him.” Well done.
Rand Paul: Paul had some good exchanges with Rubio and he was feisty. He had a good debate and had some loud fans in the room. My only complaint was his comments about Cruz and the Gang of Eight bill. Those involved in working to kill the bill have already backed Cruz’s claims. Numbers USA said he never favored amnesty, Congressman Steve King said he didn’t. U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions also confirmed it was a poison pill… let it go. Over all he had a good debate and I was happy to see him back on the primetime stage.
Jeb Bush: Except for drawing some blood against Rubio on immigration (on style, not substance) his debate performance was rather unremarkable.
Chris Christie: He had the best lines going after Hillary Clinton. If the focus of the debate stayed on issues and substance he’d get slaughtered though because overall his record and stated positions is rather abysmal. Also the “I’m a governor they’re a senator” schtick is getting old. He always follows up with that after a debate-moderator-initiated exchange between Cruz and Rubio (this is a debate, hello?) like we are to believe he’d be some principled conservative if he were in the Senate. Please. Also he had some revisionist history going on in regards to his statements about Kim Davis.
Ben Carson: He was in the debate? Oh, I guess I did see him in the spin room, but he didn’t leave a mark.
John Kasich: I was happy that he finally got the attention his poll numbers deserve – hardly any.
Carly Fiorina: Sharp answers, great response from the audience, and her statement about Planned Parenthood was excellent. Best line was chiding the moderators for questioning Rick Santorum’s pro-life credentials because he didn’t attend the March of Life. She had a solid debate.
Mike Huckabee: He had a good debate. Best response to a question when asked about the difference between New York and Iowa values he talked about some people who contributed to his campaign.
Rick Santorum: He did well when discussing foreign policy. He seemed angry at the beginning of the debate talking about polls, etc. I get that he’s frustrated, but he doesn’t debate well when he’s angry.
Jim Gilmore: His statement about the press was just odd. “When I’m President that is going to change” or something to that effect. How? Also, participating in an Iowa debate it’s probably not a good thing to highlight that you’re ignoring the state.