December 17, 2015

CNN's GOP Debate Post Analysis

I meant to comment on the GOP debate yesterday, but I did not have the time to do so.  So here are my thoughts today, well after everyone else has weighed in on it.  Unlike the GOP under card debate, the participants in the main debate were not yawners.  The debate itself did not possess any wow factors, but there were definitely some things worth noting.

Firstly, credit where it's due,Wolf Blitzer was not bad.  He was fair, and stood out of the way as much as he could.  Dana Bash was predictably liberal but nothing over the top, and also deserves some credit for keeping her liberal partisanship reasonably in check. And of course while Hugh Hewitt may have had a horse in the race, being a conservative he did not ask dumb, irrelevant questions, like climate change or living wage issues during a foreign policy debate.

As for the participants, here's some top line thoughts.

Ted Cruz - his content was good, but he did not come across as likable every time he went long and flouted the debate rules.  Once or twice is fine in order to make a point but he left the impression that he just didn't care about the rules and had a sense of self-importance.  If that's the image that sticks, it's not good for him.  That would be a shame because his content was good.

Marco Rubio - he came across as solid and knowledgeable. He did nit dazzle, but he left the impression that he would be a solid president if he were the nominee.  Despite his back story however, he did not come across as someone who can easily connect.  Maybe it's just me.  Despite his weakness on immigration he's solid on a lot of issues.  I want to like him, and I'm sure he'd be a decent president.  But all I can muster so far is 'Meh'.

Donald Trump - what Trump has going for him is remarkably, his bellicosity, tempered with well-timed compliments. What he delivers is populism in the form of knowing that things are messed up.  That's something missing not only in Democrat circles but also in large swaths of the GOP.  What he lacks, in spades, is specificity.  He says he's going to hire the best people.  I believe he would. But the problem is, unless he is secretly studying with  debate gurus and will unload unexpectedly during debates with Hillary Clinton, she is going to argue circles around him.  That's a recipe for general election failure.  The debate last night did nothing to change any of Trump's positives or negatives.

Chris Christie - I'm not a Christie guy but I think he won the debate.  He was tough. He was solid, he was forceful but he also connected.  

Jeb Bush - In la la land CNN thinks this guy is the winner.  Yes, he went after Trump, and he needed to do so.  But every single time he came across as bitter, petty, and not nice.  It was clear his debate was about him and Trump and not about details on what he wants for America.  He was trying to score political points and it's exactly why he will not win the nomination.

Ben Carson - He's smart but he's just too laid back.  It's like every answer he's reading you a bedtime story.  That's just not inspiring and it's not a winning formula.  He also has not faced a truly hostile opponent or panel of questioners yet.  I think his moment may have already passed, and it was even before this past debate.  He needed a lightning bolt, he delivered a cloud.

Carly Fiorina - Smart, mature, informed and a smooth debater.  She unfortunately delivered a debate that seemed a little canned and pat.  But that was forgivable.  What may have done her in during this debate is dhe did not manage to stand out.  In a field this big, you cannot afford to not stand out.  She needs traction and she needs it quickly, even more so after not getting it at the debate.

John Kasich - go home. While he was better than his previous debates as far as pettiness goes (where he was clearly a champion of sniping other candidates unnecessarily and spitefully), he just struck me as being overly eager: "look at me", "Ohio is great now", "look at me".  He traded in pettiness for petulance. Go home.

Rand Paul - He was testy. I don't think he was effective in being able to expand his numbers.  I think he was spoiling for a fight and he didn't get one.

Overall, I think because he did no harm, you can say Trump won.  But I expect to see bumps in support for any combination of Cruz, Rubio and Christie.  If either of the other two surge enough, it might be the end of Bush.  We can only hope.



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