The winner of the Big Ten Republican Presidential debate was Marco Rubio. He was relaxed and on point. Runner-up was Ted Cruz.
Loser was Donald Trump who was loud, angry, bodacious and lacked any substance to his remarks. He also didn’t win any points with Republicans for not promising to go Third Party nor any points with women. Runner-up Lindsey Graham who appears to be in the just race to warn Americans of another 9-11 attack.
It was supposed to be “a circus,” but Fox News made the first Republican presidential debate exciting, serious, and instructive. Most of the candidates were impressive.
Marco Rubio got the best reviews, and deserved them. Even when Megyn Kelly threw him a baffling question — essentially asking him to say something about God and veterans simultaneously — he pulled it off, saying that God had blessed us with our veterans and working in a canned but funny line about God also having blessed Republicans with good candidates. (“The Democrats can’t even find one.”)
John Kasich is also getting good reviews, but we can’t help thinking that is in part because of home-field advantage — the debate was in Cleveland, and he’s the governor of Ohio — and the liberalism of the press corps. He made it clear that he does not have strong views on same-sex marriage, and that he does not think it’s important to explain the limits of governmental compassion. Liberal Republicans may find this attractive.
Ted Cruz went through very long stretches off-camera, but every time he got a question he had a solid and well-delivered answer, whether on religious freedom or Iran or the Constitution. Jeb Bush did fine, especially when talking about school choice. Rand Paul and Chris Christie irritated each other, and us.
Donald Trump suffered in comparison to everyone else. He got off some good lines, but had nothing of substance to say on any issue. Some of what he did say was false, as when he claimed to have given money to most of the other candidates; perhaps he mistook one of them for Chuck Schumer. He may still run third party, whining about the unfairness of his treatment as he leaves the GOP — which might undermine his self-presentation as a winner who has glided from success to success.
Or he could up his game for other debates. This is a serious field, and in debates treating it like a circus act won’t work.