I had really intended to post on a non-political topic last week, but life has been extremely busy as I juggle my various responsibilities as husband, teacher, father, pastor, and writer. By the time I got through Sunday, I realized that it was past time for a new blog post, but almost time for the next GOP debate! Since I had already told my students we'd be doing another watch party, I figured I'd just wait and post my reactions here for this week's post.
First of all, my hearty thanks to the nine students who came out tonight to share this time with me. High school kids are incredibly busy these days, and the fact that they were willing to come and spend this time with their government teacher outside of normal school hours makes me very happy and proud of them. Every day, my students fill me with hope for the next generation.
Secondly, shame on CNBC for NOT providing free streaming video of the debate like EVERY OTHER network has done! It just wasn't nearly as interesting not being able to see the candidates interact, although I did try to overcome the situation a little bit by setting up a slideshow with pictures of all the candidates and flipping to whoever was speaking at the moment. (That got a little difficult during the more rapid-fire exchanges!) Double shame on CNBC for the blatant bias of the moderators. Every other question was some sort of "Gotcha" moment, and some of the follow up questions were so obviously loaded that the audience actually booed the moderators. (Good on you, audience!)
Briefly, I want to mention the "undercard" debate. I only caught the last half of it because I was busy setting things up for the kids, but I will say that Lindsey Graham did dominate the part of it that I heard. I was a bit torn during the whole thing though - on the one hand, I firmly believe that any of these men would be a better President than the current occupant of the White House. On the other hand, not one of them currently has 2 per cent support in any poll. Seriously, guys, you gave it a good try, now drop out already! (That being said, Lindsey Graham NEEDS to be Secretary of State. His foreign policy knowledge is truly impressive!)
Now, for the night - Most of the candidates got in at least one or two good licks, and none of them imploded on the stage tonight. The moderators did (to give them credit for the one thing they did well) try to give roughly equal time to the candidates. I think the spread between the one with the most talking time and the least was maybe two or three minutes, so that's pretty egalitarian. So here are my winners and losers:
MARCO RUBIO - What a night my man from Florida had! I've always liked him, and he really shone this evening. He handled the questions well, and when the moderators tried to spring a "gotcha" moment on him about his absenteeism from the Senate, he turned it around on them and delivered a huge applause line. I was very impressed with his performance.
TED CRUZ - I have never been a fan of this guy - his "do it my way or I will shut down the government" style leaves me pretty cold. That being said, I will give him the courtesy of saying that he is one of the most consistent candidates on the stage, and he gave a bang-up performance tonight. He is in this for the long haul.
CHRIS CHRISTIE - I can't help but like this guy. He's funny, quick to jump on opportunities, and genuinely compassionate for those who are hurting. He is not my first choice as President, but I bet he jumps up a few places in the polls next week.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK:
DONALD TRUMP - I've made no secret of my dislike of Trump, but that being said, he didn't have a bad debate, or a particularly good one. He was mellow, made some good points here and there, and generally refrained from the abrasive mannerisms that are the hallmark of his style. But, on the other hand, he had very little new to offer, and honestly, I still hear "I-I-Me-Me!" every time he opens his mouth.
CARLY FIORINA - The feisty lady from California had the most talking time of anybody on the stage, and she was solid, as she always is, but she didn't shine tonight like she did in the first two debates she took part in. She'll probably stay in 5th place or so.
BEN CARSON - It is virtually impossible not to like this calm, unflappable man. He is genuinely nice, undeniably brilliant, and has a sincere charm that has served him very well. But, while he gave a couple of very good answers, he just came across as sounding almost sleepy. I don't think he'll get a huge bump out of the evening.
MIKE HUCKABEE - I voted for him in 2008, even though he had actually dropped out of the race by the time it got to Texas. I've lost some respect for him this time around because of some of the extreme positions he has embraced, but at the same time, he had a pretty good night and may stick around a while longer.
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL:
JOHN KASICH - The Ohio Governor is a very solid candidate, but he's spinning his wheels at this point. His brand has not caught fire, and despite his impressive resume, I think he's not long for the race at this point.
RAND PAUL - Go away already! No one is buying your brand of isolationist, libertarian Republicanism. You may have been the darling of the Tea Party at one point, but now you are just an annoying gadfly using up airtime that could go to a worthier candidate.
JEB BUSH - It saddens me to write this. I love the Bush family; I have enormous respect for Bush 41 and genuine affection for "W". But while there may be another President Bush someday, it's not going to be Jeb. He needed to hit a home run tonight, and he got a double AT BEST. His campaign is entering the "circling the drain" phrase; the only question is how long its death throes will drag on.
So that's how I felt about the evening. Tomorrow I'll ask my students to give me their essays on who won; I look forward to reading them.
NEXT WEEK: Non-political, I promise!!!