Rand Paul and Donald Trump were winners. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and John Kasich all lost ground to Paul and Trump.
In short, had Mr. Trump not been on stage, how many fewer Americans would have watched the debate? And how many would have remained awake until the bitter end?
If you want solid answers to key questions that matter, Dr. Paul is clearly your guy. Paul did a good job in terms of sprucing up his presentation. He also had the line of the night by correctly suggesting that if getting America into WWIII was what is wanted, then Chris Christie is your man.
Mr. Trump played the audience, the moderators, and the other contestants like a violin, with Jeb Bush receiving especially pointed and unpleasant treatment from Trump. Not that Bush did not deserve to be admonished. Yes, Bush was a scooch better than in recent debates, but he was working from a pretty low bar. The man is simply not forceful or convincing where it counts. Jeb appears to have learned little from the failed, neocon co-opted presidency of his brother.
Fiorina was, well, annoying. She repeatedly ran over her allotted time and butted in when others were speaking. And her grasp of sensitive issues, especially Putin, is unnerving.
John Kasich, brimming with enthusiasm and arms flaying, worked hard to convince listeners that his time in the House and as Ohio governor gives him a leg up. John gets a better grade for effort than he does for content.
Ted Cruz most likely irritated as many listeners as he pleased. Challenged by candidates on immigration issues, Cruz came across as petulant and not very convincing. Just not a great Ted night.
Chris Christie managed to spoil a New Jersey tough guy night by stating that he would attack Vladimir Putin’s warplanes that violated a U.S. imposed Syrian no-fly zone. Hard to feel comfortable with such a shoot-from-the-hip approach to foreign policy.
Marco Rubio spoke well and with reserve and confidence. Unfortunately, Rubio is on the wrong side of key issues, especially nation building and, like Jeb, appears to have learned little from the failed presidency of George W. Bush.
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