Friday, August 7, 2015

Post-GOP Debate Impressions . . .

(Normally I update once a week, but being a hard-core political junkie, and having watched both Republican debates yesterday, I thought I would share my impressions of the GOP field.)

OK, overall reaction to Round One. (For those who don't know, since there are 17 Republican candidates running, they split them into two debates rather than one interminable one. The 10 front runners aired at 8 PM on FOX; the 7 bottom contenders aired at 4 PM yesterday CST.)
No one killed themselves verbally. No huge gaffes, and a few home runs. Here is my impression of the bottom seven in no particular order:
Lindsay Graham - totally unelectable. The man is smart and says many things that I agree with, but he is boring, uninspiring, and just looks tired, like a preacher who quit believing long ago but still mounts the pulpit out of habit.
Carly Fiorina - Probably the most solid performer overall. Intelligent, articulate, with actual proposals and not just talking points. She may bump up from this one.
James Gilmore - who? I had not heard of him before this week and he said nothing particularly memorable. I doubt he'll make it into December.
Rick Perry - a very weak start, but he got stronger and more confident as he went along. I think his hour has passed, but he said some things that were motivating, and he is still quite charismatic.
Bobby Jindal - He had some very strong moments and a few weak ones. I like him on a lot of issues; I just don't think he has the charisma to inspire the masses.
George Pataki - he put up a solid performance, but he is probably too liberal overall for the GOP base. Still, he had some good moments.
Rick Santorum - I love this man. He is passionate, articulate, and unwavering in his core beliefs, many of which I share. I just don't know that he can win - but I think he would be a fine President if he did.

So that's my summation of the lower tier.

OK, after watching the big show, here are my thoughts:
Trump hurt himself tonight. Not with the hard core Trump Chumps, but his snarky, petulant attitude was a turnoff to independents, and his not-so-veiled threat to run as an independent and throw the election angered the audience. His refusal to apologize for his unconscionably rude treatment of women, and his ugliness to Megyn Kelly, will alienate women overall (a constituency that the GOP desperately needs to win!)  Bottom line, he is not a likable man and his constant insults to those he disagrees with are going to be his political death. I think he may have already peaked.
Rubio did a great job and had some real shining moments. He may have gotten the biggest bump out of this.
Cruz was better than I expected - I'm not a fan, but he had some great lines.  His passion is undeniable, but he's burned a lot of bridges.  Can he unite the party behind him after that?
John Kasich was very solid, and I think he is angling for either the VP slot or possibly Secretary of Treasury - either of which he would perform quite well.
Huckabee is a wonderful debater and had a solid night. I like this man, I always have. But he may be yesterday's news.  That being said, his closing remarks had everyone chuckling, even as he made a very serious point.
Walker got in some solid licks but didn't really shine.  He may be too bland for the job.
Rand Paul came across as testy and combative and I think Christie owned him on the exchange over NSA surveillance.
Chris Christie surprised me; I don't care much for him, but he gave some great answers and vigorously defended his record.
Ben Carson started off slow and soft-spoken, but really nailed the last question and gave the best closing statement of the night. I was favorably impressed with him.
Bush was rather bland most of the time, except for his "I'm my own man" speech, which was well done. He neither helped nor hurt himself.  He has a lot of money and has laid the groundwork carefully, but I don't think he can win.

    Overall, there was no one clear winner, but I think that both Trump and Bush damaged themselves a bit.  Fiorina may well be in the top 10 next time; if so, she will have earned it.  I will say it was a very solid, well-moderated debate, with some hard-hitting questions and nearly everybody had one good line or one shining moment. I will be very curious to see what the polls say over the next few weeks.

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