February 19, 2016
So this is late. I meant to write this about 18 hours ago. It’s questionable whether candidate forums always deserve a recap. A late recap after several candidates have made other news is more questionable. However, I do have a lingering point to make, so here you go:On Wednesday, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all did well. By well, I mean they sounded better than they had recently in other formats. Though Rubio had a good debate on Saturday, this showed another side of him and helped him further refute the robot meme.
With this in mind, I was looking forward to seeing if John Kasich and Jeb Bush would show an extra side of themselves and how they would compare to each other. Donald Trump was less of a curiosity. He’s always Trump. Plus he did a similar event of his own on MSNBC Wednesday and sounded appropriately Trumpy.
He didn’t disappoint. If you like Trump, he did well. If you hate him, he was insufferable. If you weren’t sure, you still aren’t sure. He broke no new ground, controversial or otherwise. The pope spat was before, the Apple boycott after.
Trump did suggest there are secret documents that will prove W knew there were no WMDs, but that barely counts as a big deal on The Donald curve.
Neither Kasich nor Jeb distinguished themselves. Kasich rambled. He was his quirky self from the campaign trail. If someone was already on board, he likely didn’t lose them. But it’s equally unlikely he earned many converts.
The day before, he did an extended sit-down interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Matthews is an often belligerent interviewer, who constantly cuts off his subject. This helped Kasich, who did spectacularly. It was the version of him his believers see.
Anderson Cooper was a moderator, not inquisitor. Kasich had more room to let his sails out. Not to his benefit. Polls indicate he got a substantial bump in the couple days after New Hampshire, but he’s levelled out since. His performance eliminated any reasonable chance of a top three finish.
Jeb has failed to build any momentum in the past week. A strong debate performance and a rally with his brother didn’t move things much. His town hall appearance was solid enough, but not special. You got the feeling this just isn’t going to happen for him.
He’s now explicitly running on his family name, quite the switch from how things started. His campaign signs should now read Bush! Unless there are more Bushophiles than anyone realizes, Jeb didn’t do enough to forward himself.
There’s a difference between those who are Bush sympathizers (many) and Bush acolytes (few). If there were that many voters who will pick someone just because of family ties, it would have shown up in the polls sooner.
Jeb missed his last chance to distinguish himself from Kasich and make the case he’s more electable than Rubio (an admittedly tough chore.)
If there is a large gap between Cruz/Rubio and Bush/Kasich tomorrow, the CNN events will have contributed.