There were a few winners and a whole lot of losers at the CNN Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Winners and Losers:
1). Donald Trump – Trump is the leader of this field, and it is clear that it really doesn’t matter what he says because a segment of Republican primary voters will love him. Sure, Trump wants to censor the Internet. Trump also appears to have no idea how the Internet works, and in general, the man is making it up as he goes along. Trump used Jeb Bush as a punching bag again and probably scored more points by looking like the outsider who is taking out the Bush dynasty. Trump can get away with a lot in these debates, and it is a safe bet that his ignorance will only serve to endear him to Republican primary voters.
2). Ted Cruz – Cruz has a strategy, and it appears to be working. Cruz is avoiding going after Trump while targeting Marco Rubio hard. It is clear that Cruz sees Trump as a bubble that will eventually burst, and the real threat to his path to the nomination is Rubio. Cruz is rolling along by riding the Trump wave while at the same time distinguishing himself as the alternative to Trump.
3). Rand Paul – Rand Paul had his best debate of the year. The foreign policy debate lined up perfectly for Paul, who was able to argue against data collection programs, the First Amendment, and the Geneva Conventions. Paul explained to Donald Trump that he can’t write a new Constitution. This was the Rand Paul that observers expected to see during the campaign. Sen. Paul barely made the main Republican debate, but he took full advantage of his position on the big stage. Paul still lacks a natural constituency in the contest, but at least, he had a night to shine.
1). Marco Rubio – If Rubio is the Republican establishment’s great hope, they are screwed. Rubio wasn’t able to fly under the radar this time. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul zeroed in on Rubio. Sen. Rubio’s so-called foreign policy expertise would get blown out of the water by Hillary Clinton. Rubio’s inconsistent voting record was exploited by Cruz all night long. If the Republican contest comes down to conservative authenticity, both Trump and Cruz trounce Rubio. His former support for comprehensive immigration reform is bound to come back to haunt Rubio. Ted Cruz got the better of Marco Rubio and the GOP establishment should be worried.
2). Jeb Bush Bush thought this was the debate where he would get to look presidential. He opened up by going after Trump’s idea to ban all Muslims from entering the US. Trump responded by saying that nobody cares about Bush, and that was the end of Jeb for the night.
3).Ben Carson – Carson was largely invisible, and when he finally got a chance to talk the first thing that he did was complain about his lack of airtime. Carson then defended targeting all Muslims for surveillance by claiming that he wants to get rid of political correctness. Carson was in way over his head in this debate, and it is easy to see why he is campaign has faded. Carson just can’t cut it in a foreign policy discussion.
4). Carly Fiorina – Fiorina is the Republican outsider who talks like an insider. Fiorina’s biggest problem is that when she is not lying about Planned Parenthood she is terribly dull. Fiorina’s campaign has fallen off of the cliff because, in a field that is being dominated by charismatic right-wingers, the bland Fiorina is fading into the background.
5. John Kasich – Kasich did nothing memorable. It is clear that the establishment candidates in this field are completely lost. Kasich called for civility and an end to the infighting.
6). Chris Christie – Chris Christie tried to play up his executive experience. He even went as far as to say that the people of New Jersey trust him. Christie thought the terrorism issue would help him, but Rand Paul brought up the Bridgegate scandal and the air went out of Christie. For Christie, it will be New Hampshire or bust, and right now, it looks like a bust.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association