Here are the winners and losers from the CBS Republican debate in South Carolina.
Winners and Losers:
1). Jeb Bush – This was easily Bush’s best debate. His I don’t care what the Trump the bully says stuff came off as weak, but Jeb! was ready for Trump. He hit Trump hard on attacking his family. It didn’t matter that Trump was correct. Bush turned the tables on Trump and got the crowd on his side. Later, Bush took down Trump for disparaging women, the disabled, Hispanics, and Muslims. It might be too late for Bush to be the Republican nominee, but he finally delivered the kind of performance that his supporters have been looking for since last summer.
2). Marco Rubio – Rubio was a winner, because he engaged in an absolute bloodbath with Ted Cruz on immigration. Rubio knows all of the Republican red meat lines and how to tap into the voters’ collective psyche. Rubio drew huge applause for blaming Bill Clinton for 9/11. The throw down between Cruz and Rubio on immigration was ugly, but it gave Sen. Rubio the chance to hit Cruz by pointing out that the Texas senator is lying and making things up. Rubio is still a shaky candidate, as the crowd’s boos on when he started speaking about immigration demonstrated, but South Carolina is vital for Sen. Rubio after his collapse in New Hampshire. Anything less than a top three finish for Rubio in South Carolina could be nearly fatal. For one night, Rubio gave the party establishment hope that he might pull it together.
3). John Kasich – Kasich is the happy Republican. He made it through the debate unscathed, and he represents the alternative to the ugly negativity of the other candidates. Kasich had the line of the night when he warned Republicans that they are fixing to lose the election with the negative and personal attacks on each other. While Bush and Rubio fight to be the establishment candidate, Kasich is quietly flying under the radar with an appealing message and a cheerful campaign.
1). Donald Trump – The CBS debate was Trump’s roughest outing yet. Trump started with applause for urging the Senate to obstruct Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, but it went downhill from there. The other Republican candidates are figuring out how to get Trump to expose his liberal side. When Trump talked about WMDs, moderates and liberals probably agreed with his answer, but the Republican audience booed him. Each time Trump moved left the crowd turned on him. Ted Cruz called Trump a liberal and said that most of his policies have been very liberal. Republicans have figured out how to bring out Trump’s liberalism. The change in tactics made the CBS debate was an ugly night for Trump.
2). Ted Cruz – Cruz was called a liar by Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. Cruz went back to his evangelical calling card and buzzwords. The words liar and Cruz were frequently put together by people sharing the stage with the senator. It was an ugly debate, and Cruz did not come out well. The message for voters from this debate is that they can’t trust Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
3). Ben Carson – Ben Carson flubbed a question about replacing Scalia and his answers on issues like immigration reform involved incoherent rambles. The wheels fell off of the Carson campaign long ago. Carson got mentioned more often for being a victim of Ted Cruz’s dirty tricks in Iowa than he did for any of his positions on the issues. It is all over for Carson, and he is likely to be the next candidate to drop out of the Republican race.
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