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Observations on the Big GOP Debate Night

8-3-fs-pics-of-17-republican-presidential-candiates

Just my two cents on some of the major participants and what it all means for the 2016 election:

Ohio Governor John Kasich: 

This guy has got to be Hillary Clinton’s biggest nightmare.  Comfortable in his conservative beliefs but tolerant of those who differ; compassionate in his views about helping those in need.  Very strong moment for many moderates and independents, I think, when asked about his opposition to same-sex marriage and he said that, hey, he’s an old fashioned guy but how would he respond if one of his kids came out?  He’d love them.  Good answer!

Unapologetic about increasing Medicare subsidies in Ohio, he sounded a compassionate conservative theme I haven’t heard from a Republican in a long, long time.   He also has a smart political team.  The timing of his Presidential announcement gave him the precise buzz and bump he needed to get into the big 9 pm debate.   One of his major slogans right now to GOP voters is- “No Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio.  Ever.”

He also fills the “regular guy” role that was supposed to be Scott Walker’s specialty.   I honestly think Hillary Clinton beats every single GOP contender on that stage- except John Kasich.   The math gets really difficult for Dems without Ohio.

Brilliant move by Kasich to say Trump is touching a nerve with many and not belittling him.  Not only does he get Trump’s supporters at a later date but if Kasich gets the nomination, Trump will remember the kindness and maybe doesn’t launch the 3rd party bid.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio:

Pretty solid performance.  Really liked his take on the immigration issue when he pointed out the real problem no one talks about- the horrible, inane government bureaucracy that is so inept it turns immigrants who want to be law-abiding into criminals when they give up after waiting for years and years and end up sneaking in.   Rubio’s youth and energy could be a real contrast to Hillary the Grandmother.  And Dems like to win Florida too, and he wouldn’t be making that an easy task.   Not sure he currently has the Presidential demeanor.   I see Kasich as a Commander in Chief way before I picture Rubio.  But if the country really wants change- he’s an attractive, next generation alternative.

Donald Trump and Roger Ailes:

The Fox News President, I’m guessing, did his best to end Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination and probably succeeded with the first two questions that were asked in the debate.  Knowing full well what Trump’s response would be, the first question asked of “all” the candidates was to raise their hand if they would be willing to bolt the GOP and run as a 3rd party candidate.  Trump obliged, proving definitively, that he really does not give a rat’s ass what anybody thinks of him.  He is not a panderer.

Then Megyn Kelly asked about his insulting tweets about women.  Then Chris Wallace asked about his four Casino bankruptcies.

Was he diminished?  I think for some Republicans, the ones who care about the party, the luster has come off of the Trump infatuation.  But for many conservatives and for politically pissed-off people who don’t particularly care about the Republican party- he maintains and even gains a little.

Unless the post-debate Fox news panel with 21 Fox-selected participants reflects reality.  Fourteen of them went into the debate liking Trump only 3 remained loyal by the end of it.  They called him mean and selfish and bombastic.  And then later, a lot of Fox News analysts also were highly critical of Trump’s performance.   This is not subtle.  The Trump people are picking up on the conspiracy vibe.

Trump organization Executive VP and special counsel, Michael Cohen tweets the following:

A total setup by @FrankLuntz and #FOXNEWSDEBATE to try to lower #Trump2016 high poll numbers. American people will not fall for your tricks.

Are we on the verge of a Trump–Ailes war?  Because right now, it’s looking like the Donald walked into a gigantic trap.

Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker

He was sharp and well spoken.  He’s clearly crammed his little heart out on foreign policy.  He’s a guy with a family and a Harley.  He does “regular guy” very well.  He has certainly been consistently dissed and underestimated and just wipes out his opponents in every election he’s ever been in.  He’ll end up being a force to be reckoned with.  But I don’t think Kasich plays “regular guy.”  He actually is one and is a much more experienced political hand with a superior political operation.

Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush

Meh.  No flubs.  Selling himself as the voice of reason.  Dealt smartly with Trump and didn’t get into the mud in any way.  Stuck to his talking points on his accomplishments as Governor.  I don’t feel it for the third Bush.

New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie

He was pretty solid and articulate but kind of transparent in regard to his strategy of goading one of the other candidates into a brawl and so it was Rand Paul he chose to target.  I thought Paul held his own in the fiery debate between the two on the issue of national security versus privacy rights.  Christie came off tough alright.  Unfortunately for him, that mantle’s been taken by Donald Trump.  In the battle of the bullies, Christie gets Trumped.

Kentucky Senator, Ron Paul

His brand has been deeply tarnished over the months but I thought he put on a decent debate performance.  His libertarian views were pretty clear and consistent and he resisted pandering.

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee

What ever happened to the happy warrior who tells jokes and plays bass with rock n’ roll bands?  He seems so angry these days.  “Get off my lawn” kind of angry.  He stayed away from oven analogies- a wise choice.  He had a staged joke at the end criticizing a candidate that sounded like it was going to be Trump and it ended up being Hillary.  The Fox News hosts thought this was really funny.

Dr. Ben Carson

No surprises. Didn’t get much air time and stood his ground about it.  Fairly funny staged joke at the end saying that as a neurosurgeon there are things he’s done no one else on the stage has- like separate Siamese twins and operate on people with a half a brain which he compared to the half-brains in Washington.

Texas Senator, Ted Cruz

Got seriously short-changed on air time and answered every single question precisely as you would expect him to- extreme hard right.  It struck me that as the champion college debater he was, Cruz would be killer in a more traditional and structured debate setting.  But this was not that.  This is the age of Trump and politics as reality television.  This is the age of 17 candidates and not enough time for any of them, really.

Former HP CEO, Carly Fiorina

Voted Most Likely to Succeed in Leaving the Kid’s Table and Moving Up to the Adult Table for the next debate.   It seems to be very important to the Republican party that there be a woman who criticizes Hillary Clinton non-stop and either the rules will be changed or the good press she got will put her into the top 10, but she WILL be in the next debate with the top folks.  She’s also looking very Vice Presidential to me.   Kasich-Fiorina.

You got some work ahead of you, Hil.

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