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Score Card from the Big Debates

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All Republicans should feel relieved, if not jubilant. Lots of winners who helped themselves, and no disastrous losers.

Major gains for Marco Rubio who was lucid, passionate, self-assured, Kennedyesque – cementing his status as everyone’s second choice, which may win him the nomination, ultimately. John Kasich also moved his campaign forward: starting in tenth place (according to the polls) he looked and sounded like a folksy, credible, mainstream contender. Jeb Bush, who had to overcome a recent reputation for bumbling and gaffes, seemed strong, capable, sympathetic, and accessible. Frankly, he was also probably helped by the fact that his height (he’s 6’4″) and his position near the center of the stage made him tower over the others, literally.

The losers? Trump and Paul both fared poorly in the opening of the debate, but recovered somewhat as time went on. The Christie-Paul spat helped neither of them. The questions to Trump were appropriately tough; he’s the frontrunner, after all. But the hostile tone of the challenges from the moderators may help him with his preferred presentation of himself as the victim of an establishment cabal.  His defenses on issues of corporate bankruptcies and buying political favors won’t play well, nor will his grimaces and over-broad gestures, or the overall impression of blustery, vulnerable pomposity.

Most importantly, the first question, with his refusal to rule out an independent candidacy, will damage his long-term prospects.

Follow up question for the Donald: Why was it worth sending thousands of dollars in campaign cash and foundation donations to get Hillary to attend his wedding?

If the “main event” debate lacked a clear-cut winner, the “under card”/ opening act  (at 5 PM Eastern Time) added undeniable momentum to Carly Fiorina’s campaign. As I’ve noted on air for more than two months, the only female candidate in the GOP race has emerged as the most effective and polished stump speaker in the entire field. In a televised session that included veteran office-holders Lindsey Graham, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal, the business-based newcomer who’s never won any election, clearly stood out with her punchy, well-delivered, and aggressive responses. In the next debate on September 16th, she will likely move up from Triple-A minor leagues to the “Big Show” – and she certainly deserves it.

I’ll confess, I feel personally connected to Fiorina as 1) my fellow cancer survivor and 2) my fellow law school drop-out. With Carly and Kasich added to established frontrunners Rubio, Walker and Jeb, the Republican field will look formidable indeed – especially as Trump settles in more comfortably to his proper status as an entertaining distraction, but not a serious contender.

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Comments (36)

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  1. Matt  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I don’t understand your lack of enthusiasm for Cruz. Not only in your scoring but daily on your show. You skirt around him, not wanting to bash him but not wanting to tout him either.
    Lytle, TX

    • Mike  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      That’s quite easy. Right on every issue but wrong on strategy.

      • Steve  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 6:43 pm

        Thank you, Mike. Couldn’t agree more. Whip-smart. Right on policy. But his populist strategy is a major turn-off.

  2. BZ  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Perfect ticket today would be Carson & Fiorina. Both seem to have a whole brain.

    • Daniel J. Thone  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      YES! I love the idea of Carson & Fiorina!
      Both are articulate, humble and yet NOT a Democrat – ever!
      They would usher the racist/sexist crowd right out the door – unless they are the type to bash Carson for being an “Uncle Tom” (Not an insult!) or Carly for being a what – phony woman? It’ll never fly! They are both calm and present ideas in a way that non-politicians will understand and embrace. They are my personal favorites.

      I’m a veteran of the Brown Water Navy, Vietnam 2.5 tours in my 10 years active Navy trained by the USMC. I spent time at the Pentagon and have seen bad policy up close and personal. I trust a leader that will pull together trusted authorities in the various fields of expertise needed to fill a COMPETENT cabinet. Most of all, I trust them.
      I had to agree with the comment about having so many trusted, capable individuals running for president – unlike the Democrats. Hillary will have to have the debate from the Visitor’s Lounge at Leavenworth – the rest might just stay away for fear of NOT being able to leave after the debate! Ha! I know, just dreaming…

      Semper Fi!
      Daniel J. Thone
      Hansville, WA 98340

  3. JFM  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    The best candidates appeared to be Carson and Paul. I would vote for that ticket in a heart beat. Bush, Cruz, and Walker were also very good.

  4. Suz  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    As much as I like both Carson & Fiorina, they would better serve us as Senators (lack of experience?) – or other offices in our government. I also wonder ‘why not Cruz’ — he continues to stand out to a lot of us out there. Thoughts? What are your thoughts about a Cruz/Rubio ticket?

    • S johnson  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      When will we vote for someone other than a professional what happen to for the people by the people,I don’t want someone who is bought.

  5. Patrick Coons  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Would it appear as pandering to have Fiorina as the Presidential candidate and Rubio as VP? I think that would be a formidable ticket indeed.

    • Janet  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Definitely! A great team and electable.

    • John  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      That is my ticket too. Either one as President.

    • D. Kipp  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      I would put it Rubio first and Fiorina as VP – Great ticket.

      • Carolyn Kutt  •  Aug 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

        I agree. The best possible ticket is Rubio and Fiorina or possibly Rubio and Carson.

  6. Jobie Wagner  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    I disagree with you about Paul, Michael. I feel that he stated his positions eloquently and coherently and had the least amount of speaking time in the debate. I also feel that substantively, he got the better of the exchange with the bully Christie because he spoke specifically about provisions of the Patriot Act (bulk data) whereas Christie childishly yelled about hugging 9-11 survivors. With time constraints, Paul was the clear cut winner with the limited time that he had. But I do agree that Carly, Kasich and Rubio furthered their prospects and I am super excited about our odds to win in 2016.

  7. JRS  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    1st – Fiorina/Rubio; 2nd – Cruz/Huckabee 3rd – Carson/Kasich; 4th – Walker/Christie/Bush
    Man, what a strong field! The POTUS, VPOTUS & multiple Cabinet posts were represented at that debate! Trump for Dept of Commerce, not President.

  8. Howie  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I find all of these comments very thoughtful and interesting. The main benefit of these debates
    is that we see the emergence of 5 formidable candidates. Prior the the debates, I was not nearly as impressed most of the office seekers. Although, Carly Fiorina has always favorably impressed me. Thank you for your show and newsletter, Michael. Your recovery was an answer to my prayers and it is a blessing to all of us to have you back. God bless you and your family.

  9. Martin  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    People still don’t get it. Wipe the board clean. My comment to Trump is this:

    Trump, you have my vote. Don’t let the Bastards wear you down!

    Just shape up a good platform — on immigration, build the wall–, social security, leave it alone for now but purge out the freeloaders who receive benefits without
    qualifications –clean up the VA, too many non-medical people are employed there — and very important, pickup on Huchabee’s consumption tax and eliminate the income tax and watch this country boom– mandate everyone speak English –or no driver’s license –and set up local schools to teach it–and at election time and you will be the President.

  10. Luis Guzman  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Ted Cruz is the best, and his performance very good, GOP establishment is a fraud, and Michael is their cheerleader.

  11. S johnson  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I think your comments are the typical establishment BS. We have been hearing for far to long and it’s time to stop voting for losers that we are told are sure winners. The last 2 sure didn’t win did they ? People are tired of your same nonsense every election,everyone should know the definition of insanity and that is just what you keep doing.
    I will not vote for someone who is a professional politician nor will I vote for someone who has an R behind their name, I only vote for those with principle and will not pick and chose which parts of the constitution they feel like following whenever it suits them at the time like you Micheal.and this stupid saying…if you don’t vote for the R your are throwing your vote away,really when who ever is nominated is not of the people but from a private club called Republican and yes that is what it is.there is no choice it is all a big song and dance.the real people who try to get in are shut out as the establishment will not allow them.
    Donald Trump was the clear winner and the entrenched RIMOs do not want you to think he did so will do and say anything to make you think that.

  12. Ray Peace  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    My thoughts for the elections would be a Walker/ Florina or Walker/ Carson ticket. Trump will implode and we should just wait and let it happen. The problem with Trump is what he does say in many issues like not paying any more taxes than needed because he doesn’t trust the government and bankruptcy is all legal so whats the big deal. I would prefer not to vote for Trump in the Nov 2016 general election.

  13. Steve  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I think Rubio looked the most presidential, by far.

  14. chuck  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    A different angle: Rand Paul would be better than any Democrat now visible. Yet he is my LAST choice among the seventeen on the two stages last night. A month ago, I picked John Kasich and Ben Carson and have not yet changed my mind.

    • Daniel J. Thone  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Rand has some good things to say but his dad could be his albatross but Kasich is a GREAT choice, as well as Carson and Fiorina – perhaps Rubio. All will be better than ANYTHING the other party has to offer. Now, we only have a year and a few months to watch them try their level best to destroy our folks. Those… people… disgust me and I hope every American can see through their Socialist/Communist-Lite propaganda and vote in a couple of COMPETENT people – and Carson/Fiorina platform – them NOT being professional politicians – that’s a real PLUS in my book. Stay safe, drive carefully and don’t be swayed by the liberal BS!
      Semper Fi!

  15. Darrell Lee  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    I love the way Dr Carson thinks… he doesn’t open his mouth sprew a bunch of garbage or rhetoric , he’s insightful, thoughtful and eloquent in the presentation of his thoughts. He is the type of man that I would, will follow. I hope he continues to do well! We need to support him so the special interst groups dont try and control him!

  16. Beano  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    This is why we are in so much trouble. Where are the men with BALLS??? Only have PC foaming at the mouth.

  17. Donna Marie Williamson  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Although I don’t necessarily disagree with having a beltway outsider as president, I would hope that person would be one whose honesty and moral character would make me proud of my President. I don’t think Trump is the Cinderella to fit that shoe.

  18. Marjorie Zaun  •  Aug 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    Great debate any one of the presidential candidates are light years ahead of Hillary Clinton
    I would like to see Carly Fiorina & Ben Carson on the ticket.

  19. Scott Schumacher  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 9:52 am

    It seemed to me that both Trump and Paul showed us why they should not be president…Trump for many reasons, not least of all his pride (which comest before the fall) and his “it’s all about me” attitude. Paul is just too much of an outsider and his foreign policy (talk high amounts to basically turning his back on the world) is unrealistic. Kasich helped himself but came off as not conservative enough…same issue with Bush, leave me watch Fiorina, Rubio, Walker and Cruz (despite his rather “bull in the china shop” forcefulness) as my preferred folks at this point. i would recommend Walker’s book, Titled Unintimidated, to all…while he is quiet, he has guts, the strength of his convictions and integrity.

    • Scott Schumacher  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 9:56 am

      Sorry for the typos…no glasses and iPhone keyboard make for a bad combination.

  20. Gary Liniger  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 11:50 am

    If the Republicans were smart(which is debatable) the ticket would be Kasich and Rubio. Taking Ohio and Florida would go a long ways to winning the election. However, if Trump runs as a 3rd candidate the Democrates will win.

  21. Gary A.  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Great debate. Loved the way Christie took on Paul. As a lifelong conservative – I worked in the Goldwater campaign in 1964 as a kid growing up in NYC ,and in the Bill Buckley for Mayor campaign in 1965 – I say ABORT – Any Body Over Rand or Trump. Hey Donald, how about a little tact. You can’t go after everyone who disagrees with you.
    The key is to not just win the nomination but, more importantly, the General election. People let’s focus on that.Could win the battle but lose the war. As coach Herm
    Edwards said “You play the game to win”.
    Carson and Fiorina fan before, still after. But either might be a great VP candidate as well.

  22. Donna Goldcamp  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I wish Carson could mount the campaign to beat Hillary’s formidable war chest. He confirmed why he is a patriot and worthy of the office. Rubio has the presentation and speaking talent. I like Walker and Kasich and Cruz also. But worry that Cruz can’t sell it as well. Trump was a total turn off in his pompous manner and delusions of grandiosity. Love Fiorino! She knocked it out of the park!

  23. Tim Kelly  •  Aug 8, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Carly’s stints at HP and Motorola were lackluster. Dems want Carly to match up against what’s her name. I want a president who is 100 % eligible to be president. I would be happy with any combination of Walker, Carson, Santorum. Turncoat New Gingrich stayed in the race long enough last time to keep Santorun from getting the nomination. The hidden hand has been revealed. Libertarians are really Anarchists and should get out of the Republican Party. They knew they had no chance as third party candidates, so they infiltrated, and the minority who support them are very vocal. Carson, Santorum, Walker; Santorum, Walker, Carson. Note to Carly: your golden parachute from HP has a hole in it and is getting bigger. Get out sooner so you still have the big bucks.

  24. Keith Taylor  •  Aug 9, 2015 at 1:01 am

    I was really disappointed with the debate.

    First, there was simply no time for the candidates to have any semblance of an intellectual conversation. Other than Trump and Bush, every candidate received less than 7 minutes of talk time. Both Walker and Paul didn’t even get 6 minutes!

    Second, there was no way for the candidates not being questioned to get into the conversation — even when the topic was extremely important to that candidate. Maybe its impossible to even have any type of real debate with 10 people on stage. Still it was excruciating to sit there and listen to questions that I knew certain candidates would hit out of the park — but they had to stand there biting their tongue.

    Third, instead of getting into important issues that are critical to the success of the GOP — such as simplifying the tax code, or how to reign in government spending — the moderators seemed hell bent on trying to agitate the candidates. I would think that this would have upset you Michael as you recently stated on your show that you believe that Tax Reform is the single most important thing that can help our country.

    I too agree that tax reform is our most important issue. And, I believe that Rand Paul’s proposal for a 14.5% flat tax is the best of all the proposals I have heard so far. But, of course, he didn’t get to talk about his plan!

    I’m a big fan of yours Michael. But, on this subject, I don’t find much common ground with your analysis. IMHO, the only candidates that seemed to emerge from this fiasco with a significant positive impact were Carson and Huckabee. Carson for his charm and humor. Huckabee for his clear articulation on issues. I do agree that Rubio did a good job — but there was nothing he said that was truly memorable.

  25. Raven  •  Aug 10, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Fiorina/Rubio, Rubio/Fiorina

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