I will start by saying that those critical of the moderators and the format were not exaggerating – it was simply atrocious. Amateur hour. I really cannot believe this format and preparation was allowed to go live. I don’t care so much about the sad left wing bias of these folks – Harwood in particular is really, really out there, and those of us who watch CNBC all day weren’t expecting much more. Becky thought she had really prepped for some clever gotcha questions and they all fell flat. It was basically a pitiful performance and I almost can’t believe a network with the talent they have used these particular moderators. I don’t think they needed strong conservatives like Kudlow, Cabrera, Santelli, and Kernen, but if they had used one of them, then one blabbering leftist, and one other “tiebreaker”, and then channeled a mature and thoughtful format, it would have been a much better evening. Seriously – Carl’s attempt at drilling Carson on those who have hired him for speech-giving was just bizarre. Who thought that was going to stick? It was desperate moderating all night, and it was really sad.
The first half hour was very frustrating. They came out aggressively trying to spark a cage match (as Cruz said), and for the most part the candidates actually showed pretty good restraint. The attempt Jeb Bush launched at going after Rubio on Senate attendance was really pathetic, and Rubio’s fact-filled answer was stellar. If I am ever unemployed, I want to be a Jeb Bush political consultant, because apparently you can get paid to miss the mark – badly – and often.
Ted Cruz really was outstanding at some of the early moments. His lambasting of the media 20 minutes or so into the debate was extraordinary; it wasn’t a stretch; and it was articulate. The joke attempt on being the guy who drives people home from a bar wasn’t so smooth, but nobody’s perfect.
I deeply resented Huckabee for criticizing people last night who say they’re going on a diet and eat a bunch of Krispy Kreme donuts first. But I digress.
I am not sure how Kasich thinks he helped himself in the primary last night. He makes some very good points at times – and I like the guy – a lot – but he seems totally apathetic about establishing his conservative bona fides.
For those who weren’t paying attention, Trump said, in this exact order,
“I had excessive debt; I declared bankruptcy and got out of it; the country has excessive debt; I’m the best at managing debt.”
I am under the impression the rather inescapable inference here is that he will declare bankruptcy for the country??? I actually want to just laugh it off as a lack of logical self-awareness, but I actually wonder if he MEANT IT that way.
I don’t believe Chris Christie is going to be the nominee or your President, but wow does he sometimes shine in these debates. He is a natural in this setting. Both early in the debate and then again at the fantasy football moment he was just great.
There were very few grenades launched at Marco Rubio that he didn’t deal with brilliantly. His skill is not merely rhetorical, though it is that. He is a substantive orator, and he is that for the simple reason that he knows his stuff. He is great at the big line moments (“the Democrats have the biggest Super PAC of all – the mainstream media”) – but he also shines when it becomes necessary to dig into policy.
I don’t ever want to be in a position where I am being asked to be sympathetic to Donald Trump. The moderators were so bad last night, and so shallow, that a couple moments came and went where I even felt Trump was being mistreated.
At the end of the night, it was Rubio’s night – hands down – and I’m tired of qualifying that with the fact that I may be biased because I support him. This was Rubio’s night, and the New York Times on the left and Krauthammer on the right agree. But even a candidate I am not crazy about like Ted Cruz did very well, as did Chris Christie. It wasn’t a bad night for Trump, but he was really not consequential (though his closing was strong). Jeb had a bad night. He needed a home run and he didn’t even put bat on ball. Kasich had highs and lows but he isn’t catching on. Carly didn’t hurt herself but didn’t seem to have a big follow-up to her last performance. Ben Carson is not conveying great conviction or gravitas in my opinion, even where his policy prescriptions are solid.
It’s a fluid race. I’m betting on the candidate who I believe has the best vision for where America needs to go to compete in the 21st century. I’m betting on the candidate with the charisma and intelligence to win in the general election. And last night reinforced rather than reversed my belief that that candidate is Marco Rubio.