Last night CNN hosted the 3-hour, 11-candidate 2nd GOP Debate (as well as the 1-hour, 4-candidate undercard), and if you love politicians being wonkish, puffing out their chests to show how “strong” they are, and saying that they “are the only candidate up here that..”, then it was a great night for you. Likely little changes in the race after these debates, but they did provide some entertainment and an opportunity to assess the candidates further. Here are my impressions of each of the top 11 candidates from last night:
Fiorina: Clearly the winner of the debate. After she dominated the undercard of the first debate, she also was able to control the floor at this one (although not as overwhelmingly as in the first debate). Even though I think her foreign policy is stale, reckless and dangerous (“I wouldn’t even talk to Putin!”), I found myself liking her more and more as the night went on. Her closing remarks would have sounded hokey and canned from any other candidate, but when she delivered them I was actually inspired. She also had the best two moments of the night: when she left Trump speechless responding to his classless “face” comment, and when she gave an impassioned plea for our country to confront the evil of Planned Parenthood:
Unlike every other politician, Fiorina shifted the Planned Parenthood debate from a simple political one to a deeper one about the character of this country. Very impressive.
Trump: It is unbelievable to me that this guy has any supporters. He is an ignorant, classless buffoon who should be laughed off the stage. He has no self-awareness: he spent the night insulting his fellow Republicans on stage, yet then said he would “get along” great with other world leaders. I know the polls will show that Trump “won” the debate, but that just shows how idiotic Americans have become.
Paul: Rand is my favorite candidate, but I really thought he started off weak. He seemed unenthusiastic and resigned to his status as a lower-tier candidate. But I will say that in the 2nd half of the debate he caught his stride. When he was talking about his wheelhouse – the folly of Middle East intervention, states’ rights, liberty – then he really shined. He still mostly sounded like a professor more than a president, but it is good he is in the race, just for the change of pace from the other candidates.
Bush: The more I see him, the more I think “Bush III.” Why didn’t George Sr. and Barbara teach their children to speak more eloquently? He mostly stumbled along, had a few good lines, and admitted he smoked marijuana. Whatever.
Carson: He is the anti-candidate candidate. Nothing about him says “presidential,” yet he is doing well in the polls. I’m convinced he doesn’t really want to be president, and nothing in these debates changes that assessment. I would love to have Carson over to my house for dinner, but think he would be a disaster in the White House.
Cruz: Although I’m somewhat sympathetic to Cruz, I find his speaking style off-putting and condescending. He really didn’t do anything last night to distinguish himself, and my kids kept confusing him and Rubio and Walker.
Rubio: I feel like years ago in some secret GOP laboratory scientists created a robot that they felt would be the perfect candidate someday, and named him “Marco Rubio.” He is young, smooth, and hispanic, which in other years would be the trifecta. But he happens to be running in a year in which voters really hate “smooth,” which isn’t doing him any favors.
Walker: He was all the rage a few months ago, and we were supposed to be amazed by him based on his record in Wisconsin. He just comes across as a boring, white Republican, however.
Huckabee: Mike Huckabee seemed more like a Fox News commentator of the debate than an actual participant in the debate last night. He is another one who doesn’t really seem to be running for president, but more likely just using the opportunity to advance himself and his views.
Kasich: The mini-bump Kasich got from the home crowd of the first debate and fawning liberal media coverage should wear off now.
Christie: Other than Trump, I find Christie the most unlikable candidate in the field. And his views on security are scary; he basically admitted last night he wants to arrest people before they commit crimes. He thinks Minority Report is a utopian fantasy. For Christie, every day is 9/11, and every American is a potential terrorist.
I also thought that CNN did a far better job than Fox in moderating the debate. They worked hard to have interaction between the candidates and generally disappeared into the background. If nothing else, that was the miracle of the night.
How many more days before an actual primary?