I watched the “undercard” debates in my office and then went to a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale to watch the main debate with some rowdy Tea Partiers. I did not stay to see the “analysis” nor to attempt to win the $100 raffle from the local group. I rushed home to write this for your entertainment.
I had earlier predicted a tentative debate without much controversy, but the moderators managed to confront each candidate with his deepest fear or most controversial issue, and later set candidates against each other to explain their disagreements. Very entertaining.
So these opinions are my own, use your own judgment and let me know if you agree. Scoring is +10 to -10 as to whether they helped themselves or hurt themselves. So here are my rankings.
Donald Trump +8 – He clearly came out the winner. He was comfortable, charming and confrontational and was in control by being out of control. He clearly understands the old KGB motto “admit nothing, deny everything, make counter accusations.” He very casually accused Megyn Kelly of not liking him and smoothly mentioned he contributed to the campaigns of every candidate and candidates who accepted his contributions were at his beck and call. He also had a gracious moment with Jeb Bush.
Jeb Bush +1 – Since I was with a bunch of Tea Partiers, there were frequent “boos” and catcalls, because many of his policies are not as hardcore as they would like. He gets a point because he stuck to his guns and made no mistakes, was poised and confident. Bush has over $100 million in the coffers, so not losing is a win for him.
Ted Cruz +-0 – Ted Cruz showed his unique style but nothing new. I don’t think he helped himself, but he did say many things the Tea Partiers cheered for. Like Jeb, not losing is a winning play for Cruz.
Scott Walker +2 – Governor Walker managed to distinguish himself a bit, showed an inkling of charisma and fended off the rather insulting initial set of questions from the moderators (it was fair though, they tried to screw with everyone). You could see he’s a fighter, though I’m thinking in the long term he will need more charisma, and he will have problems if he wins and has to face Hillary.
Rand Paul -8 – I respect Senator Paul greatly, he is intelligent, determined and has good ideas, but he challenged Trump and got shmushed. Every time. He looked uncomposed and un-Presidential, like he was desperate to prove himself. I’m sorry to say this but I think his presidential aspirations are done. I believe he will continue to poll at the same level, because of his father’s legacy, but no higher.
Mike Huckabee -1 – Huckabee can be very presidential, but is always borderline preacher. The preacher came out a bit too much, a detriment in the longer term. He held his own on most of the issues, but his flat tax rant makes people nervous. Not a huge loss, but he needed a bigger win to assist in fundraising. I’m predicting his presidential aspirations are done.
John Kasich +3 – Governor Kasich is not that well known outside of Ohio, but he was able to distinguish himself somewhat on his accomplishments in Ohio, his confidence and maturity. The cheering Cleveland crowd certainly helped. His campaign is almost brand new, but this should give him some momentum in raising cash. As the primaries progress, he has a reasonable shot being in the lead at some point, if others falter.
Marco Rubio -4 – Senator Rubio is certainly one of the smartest guys on stage and showed it, but the first question from the moderator was demeaning and confrontational, a case where the accusation may have been the conviction. Even though he handled it well, damage was done. Not sure this was fair. Other than that, Rubio looked very young and unseasoned, like he was trying to prove himself. I kept thinking how he would stand up to Putin and thinking Putin would eat his lunch. I would love to see Rubio as Governor of Florida. Unfortunately, I think he has gone as far as he can as a 2016 presidential candidate.
Ben Carson +1 – Right off the bat, Dr. Carson was accused by the moderators of not being educated on all of the issues, which was what everyone, including me, was thinking. While he really did not allay those fears, he was gracious, humorous and had some great moments that made his stock rise in my opinion. I still don’t think he is ultimately qualified, but his fundraising efforts should be helped by this.
Chris Christie -1 – Chris Christie had his usual powerful moments, but this was upstaged by the powerful Trump presence. One rather ugly exchange with Rand Paul hurt both gentlemen. Not sure if it was a camera angle or whatever, but Christie did not have the presence he normally has, so I’m saying he lost some stature. I do not think his aspirations are done yet, he could be a contender as others falter.
Of the seven candidates from the “undercard” (those whose polling numbers were not high enough for the main debate), we have a clear winner.
Carly Fiorina +6 – By all measures Ms. Fiorina carried the field, she was highly intelligent, confident, articulate and in charge. Her energy left everyone else in the dust, and she got a nice compliment from Rick Perry. I look for her to rise in the polls and be a participant at the big boys debate next time.
Rick Perry -5 – Governor Perry is one of the most accomplished candidates in the race, truly an amazing story. But he has always had communications issues which (outside of Texas) can make him seem confused or at a loss. While Mr. Perry at times seemed more animated and articulate than expected, he had a particular moment where his speech faltered and he clearly lost track of his thought. This minor thought interruption will become a sound bite if he rises in the polls. I’m thinking his presidential aspirations are done.
Jim Gilmore -3 – I lived in Virginia when Jim Gilmore was governor, he is a very competent leader. But in this case he showed nothing special, no new ideas, no controversy. He has little name recognition outside of Virginia, and nothing here will enable his fundraising, which he desperately needs. Sorry, he’s done.
George Pataki -3 – Like Governor Gilmore, Governor Pataki really did not distinguish himself here, nothing unique, nothing to spark a fundraising effort. I don’t think he will get traction, and predict his campaign will not go far.
Bobby Jindal -2 – Governor Jindal is one of the most intelligent guys in the race. I’m giving him a downcheck because he could have distinguished himself but really didn’t. I was expecting more, and I’m thinking most other people were as well. If he wants to break from the pack he has to take some risks. If he has the funding, I’d love to see him continue in the race, but to advance he will have to engage with the enemy at some point.
Rick Santorum -2 – Same Rick Santorum as before a beautiful man, but without the wide appeal he will need to move up in the polls. In my opinion, sorry to say, he’s gone as far as he can.
Lindsey Graham -4 – I became less of a Lindsey Graham fan when he failed to show up for the bill to defund Planned Parenthood this week, so I watched with a bias. Even though his words were tough and his ideas distinguished, his posture and manner of speaking made him seem like a politician, not a president. After a while, his voice started to remind me of Henry Gibson from the old Laugh-in show.
That’s the field, feel free to heckle me if my predictions turn out to be bad, but at the moment, I’m very confident…