A Few Thoughts on the 2nd GOP Debate

I wasn’t going to post anything on the debate, figuring lil-ol’-me’s comments would get lost in the crowd. But, then I decided, “Why not!” It’ll help me think things through and maybe help someone else, too. I didn’t even watch the debate when it aired, since I was out for the evening and missed the entire 2nd-string debate and part of the main event. When I got home, I had other blog work to do, so I was only able to stop to catch a few minutes of it. But, now that I’m all caught up with everything and had time to ponder it a bit, I’ll give you a few impressions & observations.

Briefly, re the moderator(s) and the debate in general:

GOP 2016 debate on CNN - 2nd-tier

“2nd-tier” debate line-up

o  Jake Tapper made it clear he was the main man. I would have preferred that Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash were equal co-moderators, rather than being called in on occasion by Tapper to ask a question from the sidelines.

o  Was there an agenda here? Some of Tapper’s questions were obviously meant to goad and cause friction among the candidates on stage. Was that just for ratings, or was there more to it?

o  For another thing, Tapper seemed to favor some with more questions/time. When one requested time to comment/respond, some were allowed and others refused. More evidence of favoritism?

o  Still a bit too Trump-centered. I guess I can understand why, since he has a significant lead over most of the others. But, I’m sure most of the topics could have been addressed without prefacing statements that “Mr. Trump said…” or something along those lines.

Alright, going candidate-by-candidate, left-to-right, and leading off with the “JV”

Pataki: I liked some of what he said, but for some reason I can’t take him seriously. Also, too moderate (liberal?). Go home.

Santorum: Personally likable, and I agree with him on some stuff (e.g., religious freedom), but I’m just not feelin’ it. Time to pack it in, maybe run for governor of PA.

Jindal: Definitely my favorite from this group. From illegal immigration to defense to economics, he’s a strong conservative and articulate spokesman with a solid record and concrete ideas about what the problems are and how to restore and defend America. Can’t understand why he doesn’t poll better among conservatives. (Is it just the goofy smile?)

Graham: Much more energetic this time, and I appreciated his wit, but I still feel like I’m listening to a Southern Mr. Rogers — though, one with “teeth”. His emphasis is on foreign policy, military action, and eradicating radical Islam, and I agree with a lot of what he says in that area, as well as on a few other things. Still too moderate on most else, though.

It’s too bad there wasn’t more time in this debate, because there are several more issues that I would’ve liked to hear them comment on.

Now, for the main event

Paul: He made some good points (e.g., re staying “engaged”, or in talks, with even those nations who have acted against us; no birthright citizenship; flat tax w/o loopholes). Still too libertarian on some things for my comfort-level. At least this time he didn’t remind me so much of SNL’s Church Lady, as he did with some of his facial expressions in the first debate.

Huckabee: The Huck said some good stuff — e.g., re the threat of Iran, emphasizing the American people, inconsistent religious accommodation. As with Santorum, though, he’s a nice guy, but I’m just not feelin’ it….

Rubio: Wow! He made the most of his time and nailed it on so many things — e.g. foreign policy & military action, economic policy, etc. I may need to reconsider him, despite my disappointment with a few things he’s done/said in the past (e.g., 2013’s CIR bill). He definitely shined in this debate.

Cruz: One of my faves. When this guy is allowed to talk, he demonstrates a firm, strongly conservative approach, and he has a great record, too. He had some great moments re Iran, Planned Parenthood, etc., though I wish he’d had more opportunities.

Carson: As usual, the doc was relatively soft-spoken, gracious, said some great stuff and some so-so stuff. His kind-hearted demeanor causes him to lose opportunities to make points even in his areas of strength (e.g., re Trump’s stand on autism). I like him, but I’m afraid he’s just not cut out for the Oval Office or the world stage. (Putin would eat him alive!)

Trump: Out of the gate, he began with an insult (and a total non sequitur, at that), which didn’t bode well. But, he was more restrained than in the first debate. He completely lied about not trying to get a casino deal in Florida, though. I could continue pointing out his faults, but I won’t. Suffice to say, he had a fair performance this time around, but I think he may start losing a little support after this, as people question his past and start looking for more policy substance & consistency.

The "Main Event"

The “Main Event”

Bush: Performed pretty much as expected — not bad, but not great. He’s clearly trying to distinguish himself from his brother (and father), but I’m not sure it’s working. Also, too moderate for my taste…

Walker: As before, he had a disappointingly mediocre performance. He did have some great things to say, and he’s still one of my faves, but he really needs to do more to stand out from the pack. Not sure if the problem is just his fault, maybe he’s not sure what to do in such a big “debate”, or if it’s partly due to how he is treated (ignored?) by the media (inc. Tapper), but he needs to up his game.

Fiorina: Very impressive! This lady knows what’s going on, she knows the players, and she knows what she would do to “fix” the problems. She’s very articulate, confident, and unafraid. Her comments re Iran, Planned Parenthood, and the fate & character of our nation were excellent! I still have a few concerns about things she has done/said, but she certainly has debating skills.

Kasich: I appreciated his initial comments, which were that the first 10 minutes had been wasted on ad hominem back-n-forth, when the (serious) viewers want to hear about the real issues. As for his answers on those issues, he did OK on some, but he’s too much of a moderate for me.

Christie: He was off on his criticism of the Trump/Fiorina argument re their respective business track records, since it involves matters of leadership skills, wise decision-making, and ethics. I also still have my reservations about him re policy and temperament. But, he did pretty well in this debate and I liked or sympathized with much of what he said (e.g., re Social Security).

There were a few stumbles, missed opportunities, and plenty of interesting, sometimes tense, exchanges throughout the night. Although some of the dialogue between certain candidates got a bit fiery, no one lost their cool, though Trump got awfully red in the face at a couple points. Speaking of Trump, he had to play defense again, but he can’t blame Fox News this time. He also smiled & laughed a bit more and actually high-fived (or whatever) his stage-neighbors on 3 or 4 occasions.

A few general gripes: 1) I’m tired of hearing “I’m the only person on this stage who…,” especially when half the time the claim turns out to be inaccurate. 2) I have to admit that some of the candidates have certain mannerisms that are starting to bug me (e.g., Rubio’s cadence, Cruz’s staring at the camera like he’s giving a prepared speech, Trump’s and Carson’s hand gestures, Trump’s facial expressions), but I guess I need to “let it go”. 3) I also have to say that I am frustrated with the format for these “debates”. In fact, I like Allen West’s idea:

“[O]ver a week-long period, have a format where each presidential candidate is grilled for a 45-minute period by a two-person team. That way we cut down on the ridiculous back and forth and it’s just about the candidate and the issues. Sadly, the problem is we, the American public, have turned our political scene into a reality TV show and the media plays to that all for the holy grail of ratings.”

If we can’t have that, then I’d like to see a few debates focused solely on one or two issues (e.g., military/foreign policy, jobs & the economy, illegal immigration & domestic security, “social issues”) to help us distinguish the candidates from each other. Some actual one-on-one debates might be helpful, too. For example, Cruz vs. Kasich, Paul vs. Christie, Trump vs. Fiorina, Jindal vs. Graham, etc. For now, though, we have to deal with what they give us.

republican-debate-donald-trump-carly-fiorina-quotes-insultsThere have been plenty of “winners” lists given, but I’m never quite sure what the criteria are. Who handled themselves the “best”? Who made the best speeches? Who had the most speaking time? Who scored the most applause for jokes & zingers? Who refused to get riled up? Who spoke with the most passion? Who are my favorites because of, or regardless of, the latest debate? I would say that about half of the candidates impressed me at least a little, even a lot, in this debate, while the rest were just OK. But, just because one impresses to a certain degree in one event does not mean I would be thrilled to see him/her get the nomination (e.g., Graham). We still have a long ways to go and plenty of time for campaigns to implode, or for further research to convince me that someone I sorta like now is not as consistently conservative as I thought they were and/or just not ready for the responsibilities of the Oval Office.

This probably won’t be much of a surprise, but the five that impressed me the most and for various reasons in this pair of debates were (in no particular order) Jindal, Graham, Cruz, Rubio, and Fiorina. (Replace Graham with Walker and you have my personal — at the moment — Top 5.) They deserve any and all bumps in the polls that follow.

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