Last night’s debate was the fourth for the GOP presidential candidates, and was focused on the economy, making it a virtual do-over of the botched CNBC debate. It was the first debate where the candidates engaged in discussion of substantive policy issues.
Marco Rubio was on fleek. He adapted his stump speech well to the tougher questions, and his “committed isolationist” exchange with Rand Paul was forceful without being overly strident. We also found the ads Rubio aired before the debate (the first Rubio television ads we’ve seen) to be very well done.
The Texas senator turned in another strong debate performance. Cruz’ comment about the cost of not defending the nation was well delivered. Even when Cruz stumbled – eliminating the Department of Commerce twice – it did not seem to hurt him as it did Perry in the last election cycle. Cruz also demolished Kasich in an exchange regarding government bailouts.
Carson did more than the water treading of the last two debates. After an embattled week, Carson came out strong on all fronts. His statements about not raising the minimum wage were very well received.
Paul is at his best discussing policy, and he held his own in an exchange with Marco Rubio. We liked the emergence of the old Rand Paul that has been absent in the previous debates, the Rand Paul who is orthodox and strident, but pushes his points in a likeable way. It was Paul’s previous performances.
Kasich bombed last night. For the duration of the debate, the Ohio governor was childish and petty. He was constantly making comments about airtime and repeatedly trying to interrupt other candidates and the moderators. With his answers, Kasich demonstrated that he is not much different than the Democrats in that he thinking that more government and more spending is a solution to our country’s problems. He was absolutely demolished by Ted Cruz in an exchange about bank bailouts (see more below). After this embarrassing performance, Kasich should drop out.
Bush again turned in a lackluster performance. Jeb did well for Jeb, and it was an improvement on his last debate, but it still didn’t do anything to convince viewers he’s the guy to take on Hillary in 2016.
Carly again emphasized her business background. We have heard it. We kind of like it. But it is a one note song, and it doesn’t appear to be propelling Carly much of anywhere.
The Donald was invisible most of the night. When he did speak, his responses mirrored ones we’ve heard the last three debates. The line about deporting Mexicans to the center of Mexico (an initiative the Eisenhower Administration termed “Operation Wetback”) was just a poor choice. The Hillary Clinton campaign was right to hi-five Trump’s crassness.
Cruz vs. Kasich
Cruz and Kasich faced off over bank bailouts. Cruz emphatically stated he would not bail the banks out as had happened in 2008. Kasich stumbled out of the gate by saying a situation where that would be necessary could never happen under his watch, and then Cruz was able to get Kasich to state he would give bailouts based on need. The exchange left Kasich looking inept, and reinforced his big government ideology.
Trump vs. Kasich
Kasich was absolutely right (a scary sentence, we know) about Donald Trump’s asinine plan to deport millions of Mexicans back to Mexico, apparently modeled on an initiative from the 1950s (see above). Kasich stated ““For the 11 million people, come on folks,” “We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border. It’s a silly argument.” Trump’s response, that he’d built a billion dollar company and so didn’t have to listen to Kasich, was tone deaf. If he doesn’t have to listen to Kasich, does Trump have to listen to the American body politic?
Rubio vs. Rand
We already noted their exchange regarding defense, but they had another interesting contretemps regarding the child tax credit, which Paul claimed is an unfunded expense, and against the fiscal orthodoxy of a proper conservative. Rubio’s response – that it was unfair to allow a tax write-off of equipment for a business, but not allow the write-off of child care – was well delivered, and we appreciated Rubio’s pro-family stance.