The Republican Party won last night because the interminable three hour debate was sufficiently entertaining that it guaranteed there would still be a large audience tuned in for their next debate on October 28 in Colorado. (Ironically it will also guarantee that people likely will watch the first Democratic debate on October 13; although—baring a Biden entry—these debates could be rather dull and could only hurt Hillary.)
The debate began with all guns loaded for bear to go after Trump. From the moderator to the candidates everyone ganged up on him and he handed out rejoinders without hesitation. After a while everyone backed off him a bit as the discussion got more substantive, Trump faded–especially on foreign policy—and, at the end, he was out of character and actually smiling—a bit. Trump did not hurt himself much last night although perhaps at the edges, but he also did not take a great leap forward.
Rubio came into his own on foreign policy in which he was well versed and articulate. He became one of the night’s winners which may help his fund-raising. His youth enabled him to rebound late in the evening although he appeared to suffer the most from the television lights.
Paul took it on the chin and Huckabee remains a nice guy who should return to his ministry or television programs or …. Cruz did not shine although he certainly projects strength and baring. He will not go away fast but his running clock is ticking, although having the resources Cruz could be around still for a bit. Walker, like Christie was uneven although Christie had more good minutes and scoring points. Both probably are good for one more round—at least.
Kasich clearly was the top of the class of the traditional Republicans. He remains a policy wonk and looks ready to go head to head with Hillary; but it remains to be seen if he can pick up momentum and financial support to make him a viable GOP nominee.
There continues to be something charming, considerate, and yet bizarre about Carson’s candidacy. He is too nice for politics; has a lovely style and manner but has no “go for the jugular” in him. As long as his money holds out he will remain in the game, but he is not in it for the long haul.
Bush continues to need to pinch and push himself to keep going. If he did not have all the money he has raised sitting by his side, he would probably chuck the entire race, with a quick “who needs this.” He was better last night than in August, but only intermittently did he show any fire. It will be interesting to see if he moved into the double digits in the post-debate polls.
Fiorina did make a move and held her own against the Trump gorilla. She demonstrated both command and understanding of domestic and foreign policy issues. She showed a human side as well the ability to take a punch. She, like Graham in the pre-debate, will be could be around for a longer haul.