I want to offer some quick thoughts about tonight’s CBS News Republican debate held in Greenville, SC. I want to first make some general comments about the debate before discussing the candidates. I appreciate that the questioners did not attempt to pit candidates against each other there were enough fireworks without that. I don’t have an issue with the types of questions that were asked. I do believe John Dickerson lost control of the debate and the candidates took over.
Also I would really like the Republican National Committee explain the debate ticketing process because the last few debates have appeared stacked. I’ve been told by numerous Cruz supporters that it was impossible to get tickets to the debate in Des Moines, IA. Rubio seemed to have the most supporters in the debate hall during the debate in Des Moines and with tonight’s debate. Tickets should be divided equally between the campaigns period.
Now with the candidates:
Donald Trump: This has to be the worst debate performance I’ve seen with Trump. His attacks on Jeb Bush fell flat. He looked whiney in his response to Cruz. He flat out lied about his position on eminent domain and previous bankruptcies. His answer on Planned Parenthood funding was appalling, and frankly calling Cruz a liar for bringing it up was laughable when Trump is on the record saying he would keep them funded. Blaming President George W. Bush for 9/11 got him well-deserved boos. His constant interrupting was annoying and CBS should have turned off his mic when he wasn’t answering a direct question.
I’d say Trump was the only loser tonight, and if tonight’s debate impacts the South Carolina Primary, as much as, Marco Rubio’s poor performance in New Hampshire impacted their primary he’s in trouble. To make matters worse Trump actually had me defending Jeb Bush on Twitter which was surreal.
Ted Cruz: I think he drew blood on Trump in the Planned Parenthood funding exchange. He gave the best answer on nominating judges. He gave a great response to Dickerson when asked about his business tax plan. I personally wouldn’t have advised him to tangle with Rubio over immigration again as it gave Rubio a chance to unload on him, but responding in Spanish to Rubio’s claim he doesn’t speak the language was brilliant and made Rubio look foolish. Cruz tonight was the only one to successfully go toe to toe against Donald Trump and got him to actually defend Planned Parenthood during a debate in South Carolina, oh boy. Over all it was a good debate for Cruz.
Marco Rubio: Much improved over last week’s debate in New Hampshire. He was strong on the questions related to foreign policy. His answer on what amnesty means was nice spin in order to protect his actual record however. When people think amnesty they think allowing illegal immigrants to either stay here or, in the case what Rubio pushed for in 2013, allow a pathway to citizenship. Look, I recognize that I’m biased here toward Cruz, but I don’t think his unloading on Cruz helped his campaign. Cruz pointed out Rubio’s record on immigration. Rubio responded by essentially calling Cruz a liar. I’m not sure what pointing out that Cruz doesn’t speak Spanish was supposed to prove? Cruz responded (in Spanish) “We can do this in Spanish if you want to, go ahead” which I found rather amusing. Is he fluent? No, not from what I’ve heard, but that shouldn’t be a problem in a Republican debate in South Carolina anyway. The only people Rubio impressed with this particular exchange were his supporters.
Jeb Bush: Like I said after the last debate, Bush is not a good attack dog, but Trump went to far in his counter-attack so give that round to Bush because he garnered sympathy (not that you can really call that a win). Bush had a good exchange with Trump on eminent domain, as far as the facts are concerned, but he just couldn’t seem to connect. His exchange with John Kasich on Medicaid and Obamacare fell flat even though he’s absolutely right about Kasich’s record. He didn’t have a bad debate. I just don’t think it’s going to get him anywhere.
John Kasich: Kasich, with the exception of responding to Bush, didn’t really tangle with anyone. He gave safe answers. He wasn’t spectacular, but he stayed above the fray. Out of the establishment lane candidates I would say he did the best not because of the substance of his answers necessarily, but because no one drew blood.
Ben Carson: Twice he cited his website to start off answering questions that he never really gave a substantive answer on. It’s one thing to provide a website where people can learn more after you answer your questions, but not at the start. He is a nice man, but he is out of his depth.