August 6, 2015
Sometimes you aren’t sure who won. This time it was clear. Sometimes I don’t agree with the pundits. This time I did.
The mission here was different from most presidential debates, as the next step for these guys is to break into the Top 10 before the next debate in about a month.
Judged in a vacuum, overall the participants did very well. If you didn’t know this was the consolation debate and someone told you this was the entire Republican field, you would think they could easily find a credible nominee.
However, we need to grade on a curve, using the following criteria:
C: Gave good answers, seemed knowledgeable, no major gaffes. Not out of place on the stage. With fewer competitors, this performance would usually get a B-.
B: In addition to the above, gave a compelling reason why a voter would prefer him/her to any of the other alternatives, including those in the main debate. Able to show legit justification for candidacy.
A: Made you wonder how they could possibly have the September main debate without this person. Someone most voters should at least kick the tires on. Acted like they would belong in the one-on-one debate with Hillary or emergency replacement.
And now the results….
Carly Fiorina: A+
Won the debate on several levels. Was able to convince me and the assembled opinion makers and the people participating in the post-game poll that she won going away.
For several weeks, word drifted out that she was doing very well in stump speeches and public appearances, but it wasn’t showing up in the numbers. Voters and donors didn’t want to commit to a lost cause, even if they were personally impressed.
Having every Fox News pundit parrot their initial impression changes things. She will easily qualify for the main debate next month and if today is any indication, she’ll fit in just fine.
Beyond that viability test, she also needed to address concerns over losing a senate race in California (her only attempt at electoral office) as well as her lack of said elected experience.
Fiorina did both. Her answers were clear, concise and specific. No Trump vaguery and bombast. It appears she’s the rare candidate that makes more sense for president than congress.
There was nothing she said that anyone beyond the most extreme right wing or moderate Republican would object to.
Great performance. I’m completely re-evaluating my previous impression of her.
Lindsey Graham: B
This was a darker, more serious Senator Graham, one who won’t get nominated. The nomination was never a possibility.
He did succeed in contrasting himself with all other candidates, based on his specific focus on defending the country against ISIS and other threats by sending ground troops to Syria and back to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not what many voters are looking to hear, but a clear reason for Graham to continue to exist as an issue candidate.
Rick Perry: B-
Couple of bumps, but overall good job. Much more confident when getting to use his talking points. In a normal year, very encouraging performance.
However, he gave no clear reason why his candidacy is that special and Fiorina stole his pass to the higher level. She simply seemed, sounded and acted more presidential.
Bobby Jindal: B-
Another mostly good effort that just didn’t do enough. This is the Jindal that Republican talent scouts were excited about.
its another measure of how well Fiorina did. She was on stage with multiple very successful governors and more than held her own. The best sounding chief executive on stage was someone who has performed that role only in the private sector.
Rick Santorum: C+
Will be interesting to compare with Huckabee to see who the more successful Ghost of Iowa Past was. Didn’t do anything wrong, just didn’t make it clear why his presence was necessary.
90% of his comments could have come from the 2011-12 debate season.
George Pataki: C+
Did very well for someone out of office for a decade and 13 years past his last election. Focused on making a case for himself, that sounded good if you blocked out all the other options.
Jim Gilmore: C
Not bad. Not embarrassing. Not necessary
NOTE: This post went up about 90 minutes after the debate, giving me enough time to hear all the Fox people gush over Fiorina, but not much else. As of 26 hours after the debate ended, I’m apparently the only person who thought Graham was anything other than terrible