January 15, 2016
I was wrong. I thought some of the most important statements would come from the candidates to the outside of the stage.
Jeb Bush probably had his best debate. John Kasich was a bit better than usual. Ben Carson was a bit more sure-footed than previously. It didn’t really matter.
Carson probably did enough to hold his most loyal supporters. Jeb gave his true believers a reason to hope he’ll continue to slowly improve. Kasich definitely didn’t turn off his New Hampshire supporters.
The show was with the others. I figured they’d be prepared. They were. Though they weren’t seriously tripped up, there were still plenty of fireworks. In reverse order of impact:
He was effective like usual. Also like usual Christie repeatedly focused on Hillary Rodham Clinton. The big innovation this time was adding Rodham. Brought me back to the early 90s.
I’m not sure he did enough to pull any votes from anyone else though. His national favorability numbers are trending up. Carly Fiorina is well-liked by most Republicans too. That’s not enough in itself, just a prerequisite.
The guys behind him didn’t do badly enough to cause their supporters to give up, and the guys ahead of him didn’t flop.
He pivoted. Gone is the hopeful Rubio. He’s still more pleasant than Cruz, but each question brought a warning that Barack Obama has steered us to the edge of the abyss.
Elect Marco and the country is saved. Choose Hillary and we pitch into permanent darkness. While Christie focuses on Hillary and uses Obama for garnish, Rubio does the reverse.
Realizing his message wasn’t quite in line with where much of the party is, he had to adjust. It took him a couple of weeks, but the new rhetorical suit fits pretty well.
You could tell he was trying to sound tougher and it mostly worked. The crowd seemed to respond very well and he more than held his own when he had exchanges with Christie and Cruz.
The problem is that two guys ahead of him had good nights and he wasn’t so much better than the governors that everyone is immediately ready to circle the wagons around him.
Strong performance, good re-set. Still a clear third in overall position.
When we last saw these guys on stage, Ted was surging. He was getting close in Iowa and starting to finish second in some national polls.
Now he’s a clear number two nationally and was a clear numero uno in Iowa until Trump closed the gap in the past week. At worst, they’re roughly tied right now.
In the crosshairs for the first time, Cruz acted like it was nothing, relishing the queries he knew were coming. He looked very much the front runner, someone who could handle the pressure of being a standard bearer.
An important step, but Trump and Rubio aren’t going away either. It’s going to be a fight.
Cruz probably had the best debate, but Trump had the best night. For months he’s stayed up in the polls despite some ragged debate performances.
At first, he really wasn’t good. His strongest adherents, the 15-20% who were all in from the start, thought he did great. The rest of us didn’t. After each of the first two, his polls dropped and then recovered later.
By the fourth debate, he showed clear improvement. His numbers were staying steady post-debate. Though not in a class with Rubio, Cruz, Fiorina or Christie, he was communicating more effectively than not.
Now he’s just good at this. Cruz got the best of him on the birther thing. Give Ted 7-10 days to prep for a question and he’ll kill it. Trump got booed.
But he handled it and had some really good moments later, not the least of which was when he stuck up for New Yorkers.
Too bombastic in round one, too lethargic in round two, sort of inconsistent in the couple after that, his tone and pitch were on tonight.
Either I’m just getting way too used to Trump, or he’s improving. The talking heads are noticing too so there’s something to it.
He didn’t do anything that would cost him with what you might consider the core Trump voter, but is starting to win over some skeptics. During the debate intro, RNC Chief Reince Preibus said very loudly and clearly that he had confidence in all the participants as the nominee.
That might have been for show, but it was another indication the party establishment is in no position to overtly block Trump. A few more performances like this and it will be even harder.
A Trump who can debate effectively starts looking a lot more viable in the fall. Particularly after his recent impact on Hillary’s campaign.
Like him, hate him, or still not sure, he’s a great natural politician.