Tonight’s Republican Debate on CNBC featured the top 10 presidential candidates. Once again we have decided to provide our own score, based on how we believe this debate will affect their standings (not on our opinion of the issues).
This has become a very impressive field, every candidate is trying to improve their image and stand out in this very visible event. Answers to questions were on point and every candidate was able to take loaded questions and turn them into fiery speeches. A lot of good substance was covered, steered more by the candidates than the moderators, who, to me, seemed mediocre at best.
It seemed several times the candidates actually showed solidarity against the moderators. A very interesting dynamic. The impact to me was to make the whole group seem formidable (as I said this was my own impression). Contrast this to a relatively lame Democratic performance.
Ted Cruz made a telling comment, that the initial set of questions were not appropriate. He commented about “comic book trump”, “Carson can’t add,” “Kasich asked to insult two other people.” etc. In counterpoint he described the Democratic debate as being a contest of how “handsome and wise” the candidates were.
The media was under fire in several instances, accused of being a “SuperPAC” for the Democrats, and letting Hillary off the hook “after being exposed as a liar.”
I’m anticipating a slightly lower audience for this and subsequent debates, since the curiosity has waned somewhat. The lower participation of Mr. Trump (see below) will lower the popularity. I’m still anticipating a greater audience than the Democratic debate which hit a mere 9 million versus the first Republican debate at 24 million (wild guess 19 million). This media exposure is priceless to all of the candidates.
Donald Trump – 3 The moderators clearly were not focused on Donald Trump. In fact, he was not asked a single serious policy question in the first half of the debate. His first question was a laundry list of policies gratuitously declared a “comic book version” which was gratuitously refuted in the short time available.
The second was the age-old and often answered question about bankruptcies in the Trump organizations. His third was the obscure issue of H1B visas.
He was later allowed to contribute on guns and jobs, and perhaps made up for some of the early lack of focus by the moderators. He was not really permitted enough voice to make many attacks, so some entertainment value was lost.
Bonus points for his final speech, where he pointed out he and Ben Carson negotiated a two hour instead of a three-hour debate. Added entertainment value.
Additional bonus points for an extensive and knowledgeable interview after the debate. True Trump form.
Mr. Trump has his fan base, he will not be hurt too much in the short term. However, this performance may allow others to rise.
Ben Carson – 5 In my view, Dr. Carson did not seem strong, he stuttered a bit, he seemed unsure at times and admitted he had changed his mind on a current issue (subsidy of domestic oil). His eye contact was poor, and he was not dynamic in his speech.
In my opinion, other candidates have gotten tighter and more dynamic, and their answers are getting more detailed, polished and passionate. Dr. Carson seems flat and vague by comparison.
On the plus side, a lot of people in the audience were rooting for him and provide enthusiastic applause. These are good optics for Dr. Carson but not enough.
My prediction is his ratings will hover for a week and then start to fall.
John Kasich +5 Governor Kasich was a powerful voice, logical, passionate and he was able to articulate his fine record during the debate. He presented well as a senior experienced voice, with sufficient detail to prove he knows what he is talking about.
Despite a prolonged attack from Trump on his record, he comes out way ahead in our book (in fact an attack from Trump can be considered a badge of honor).
This performance puts him squarely on the national stage. If he has the campaign strength to take advantage he will rise in the polls. But we are not sure that he does…
Mike Huckabee +1 Mike Huckabee was in good form, passionate and knowledgeable, but this is just not enough to give him a real chance.
I respect Governor Huckabee immensely but he will not rise in the polls based on this performance. He needs something drastic to give him a boost, otherwise he is done.
Jeb Bush – +1 Governor Bush is improving and helped himself in this debate. He was prepared and polished. But he is not improving as quickly as others have and he could have been more dynamic. He was outshined a bit.
Governor Bush has the staying power in this election, and slow improvement may be enough for him. Will this performance improve his numbers? No. But his performance will support a slow rise if his campaign is up for it. Never count out a Bush.
Marco Rubio +4 Marco Rubio was fiery, passionate, confident and knowledgeable. Unlike the first debate where Senator Rubio was made small by a moderators question, he handled a similar question (implying he is too young) very deftly, and managed to turn it to his advantage. This was a great adjustment, reflecting an excellent campaign team.
Senator Rubio has done a lot since the last debate and has improved his position in the polls. If he has the horses to continue his climb, this debate will help him.
Carly Fiorina +3 Mrs. Fiorina was dynamic and knowledgeable, very polished and poised. Her first question about the “failure” of HP under her tenure was rapidly turned into a positive. It was noted she had the most speaking time of anyone in the debate.
She was substantive, eloquent and has a soothing confident voice.
This performance should help her substantially and put a short-term bump in her poll numbers. However her campaign was really unable to take advantage of her winning performance in the last debate so she has some work to do.
Ted Cruz + 3 Ted Cruz had a very good debate, he was eloquent and forceful as always, but something has changed slightly. Not sure what it is but he seemed more sincere, more interesting and people seemed to be paying more attention. In addition to his brilliant attack on the media mentioned above, Mr. Cruz had good substance in his agenda and seemed to reach out better.
I believe the Senator’s current supporters are relatively static, and there will be no short-term bump in poll numbers. However Cruz does have an effective campaign and this performance could give him a wider appeal and longer term rise, if he can take advantage by widening his base.
Chris Christie +5 Governor Christie was on fire! He had many good moments, and really not any bad ones. He got a softball question about putting car manufacturers in jail when people died. He showed a lot of skill in his answer to a question about man-made global climate change.
Governor Christie had some very quotable quotes:
– (With all of these problems)…”are we really talking about fantasy football???”
– When badgered by the moderator, “even in new jersey what you are doing is called rude.”
– And of course, looking right into the camera calling the government “liars” and saying “your money was stolen!!!”
I believe Governor Christie has put himself back onto the national stage. If he has a followup plan, he could rise substantially in the polls. I’m worried though because he may not have it.
Rand Paul – 1 Not helping himself, did not present in a standout manner. He was more articulate than last time and perhaps more “presidential” but its too little too late. We said after the last debate his campaign was done. Nothing here to change that.
So finally, our predictions for top seven rankings in two weeks: Trump, Rubio, Fiorina, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Bush, Kasich