The first Republican presidential debate is now in the books, and there is plenty to talk about. From a bizarre line of opening questions to, at times, combative exchanges, the debate had a little bit of everything. Did Donald Trump maintain his front-runner status? Did anyone pull off a surprise? Several candidates shined in the spotlight, and when it was all said and done, the biggest loser was Fox News.
As the debate was about to start, the Fox News team of Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace seemed almost giddy. It was a strange tone, as if they were the stars, and they were about to have fun grilling the candidates. When they fired off their first question, it was obvious that it was a “ratings moment.”
The moderators asked all candidates to raise their hand if they would not pledge at that moment to support the eventual GOP nominee. Donald Trump was the only one on stage who raised his hand and thus he brought instant attention to himself, but not in a good way. This was not the way to start a debate, and it was only one of a series of questions that were put forward in a negative light. It seemed most unprofessional, especially from Kelly and Wallace, and it definitely got the attention of several conservative observers.
So this isn’t a “Bash Trump” debate. This is a “Destroy Trump” debate. But Trump is still standing. #GOPDebate
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 7, 2015
It's one thing for a moderator to ask a pointed question, it is another for them to try to bias the jury pool
— David Limbaugh (@DavidLimbaugh) August 7, 2015
Trump, to his discredit, could have handled the whole debate much better. The opening pledge was a set-up, and he fell right into it. He could have done much better by not raising his hand. Of course, the moderators (Kelly and Wallace) would probably have focused on Trump directly, and asked him, “Mr. Trump, you are saying that you will support the nominee?” Then, all Trump had to do was recite what he has already said about supporting the nominee if the process is fair… if he is not targeted by the GOP estabishment (which it appears he was). Then, there would be no talking point.
As far as winners and losers, here’s a brief review, followed by an overall list.
Donald Trump — He lost ground right from the beginning, and as much as people like his no-nonsense approach, he seemed testy rather than presidential. He scored good points for sticking to his “the system is broken” message, but didn’t seem to grasp foreign policy.
Ted Cruz — He definitely gained ground and was the winner in my book. Cruz was able to answer every single question with a direct and thoughtful answer. He said exactly what he would do, and he presented his opinions in a way that voters could understand.
Scott Walker — Ditto for Scott Walker, but not quite to the level of Ted Cruz.
Jeb Bush — By dodging the Common Core topic and emphasizing some conservative talking points, he certainly appealed to the casual voter. There’s no doubt he did a good job as governor, but his statements over the years regarding immigration and education show that he’s not a conservative. However, since we are just focusing on this debate, he did a solid job of addressing the issues without revealing his true nature.
Chris Christie — Christie was strong and forceful and was never really faced with questions that would reveal his moderate disposition. The questions he faced allowed him to appear strong (especially regarding terrorism), and he acquitted himself well.
Rand Paul — Paul was combative from the beginning. At first it appeared that he was just going after Trump, but he focused his attacks on others too.
John Kasich — Kasich, now the governor of Ohio, had a definite home field advantage. (The debate took place in Cleveland.) He did a good job of highlighting what he’s done for Ohio and also what he did back when he was House budget chairman. If people don’t remember the time when we actually had balanced budgets, Kasich did a good job of reminding them.
Mike Huckabee — Huckabee was the real surprise of the evening. He injected humor at just the right times, and was able to answer questions in a very thoughtful manner. He came across and knowledgable and certainly able to be president. His highlight came when he started to talk about a particular candidate and produced a laundry list of negatives. He made it appear that he was talking about Trump, but then said “Hillary Clinton” at the end. Nice.
Ben Carson — Carson delivered the best closing of any candidate, and he lived up to his reputation of being a kind and caring individual. That’s how he came across on stage. Unfortunately, he also came across as if he were in over his head, often glancing down to make sure he hit on a particular stat or talking point.
Marco Rubio — Again, here is a candidate that really focused on the positives of his message and his background while masking what many people believe: that he is not a true conservative on immigration and other issues. He’s the next round of the GOP establishment, but as far as the debate, he didn’t hurt himself and probably helped his cause.
So, what’s your ranking? Ready to disagree? Here’s mine from top to bottom:
Based on the way Carly Fiorina performed in the earlier candidate forum (basically recognized as the clear winner), Carson may have to vacate his position to make room for her.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next debate, and it’s my hope that we will have some professional moderators. These juvenile questions and apparent agenda do not sit well with me at all. Has Megyn Kelly become the new Candy Crowley? Let the candidates go after each other. It’s not the job of the moderators to attack.
Some Fox News “questions”