Tonight’s Republican debate was classy and substantive, and certainly more coherent as the number of candidates drops to a manageable level. Each candidate has improved, since the earlier debates, and each managed to appear “presidential” at some point.
Topics included North Korea, heroin addiction, ISIS, the economy, immigration, Obamacare and more.
As we have done in the past, we have judged each performance based on how we believe it will affect the candidate’s position in the polls and in the primary elections. In this article we make no comment on whether or not we agree with them on the issues.
Trump +4 – Mr. Trump had some great moments and bad moments, including some booing from the crowd as he complained that the audience was full of donors to other candidates’ campaigns. He stood his ground, as usual. He made only a few direct attacks on other candidates (minor potshot at Cruz for “stealing” Ben Carsons caucus votes in Iowa), so showmanship did not get in the way of substance.
This performance is good enough to maintain Trump’s status as leader in the polls. I predict he will win New Hampshire by 12-15 points.
Rhe controversy and bluntness of Trump’s speaking style has been noted in various places. He has nowhere near the grasp of details that Marco Rubio has, nor the governor’s perspective of Bush, Kasich or Christie.
But he has credibility. Here’s why:
If you have a bunch of people talking about boxing, and Evander Holyfield walks into the room, it doesn’t matter how eloquent the other speakers are or what experiences they claim. If he says he would do a 1-3-5 combination (awkward!) in a certain situation you question neither his competence nor his ability, because he was the best and he’s done it before.
Donald Trump is recognized as one of the best on earth in building projects and making deals (a $10 Billion fortune is compelling evidence). Many on the stage are more eloquent and have a better handle on details, and some even have experiences Trump doesn’t have. But when Donald Trump says “We will win” no one dares question Trumps ability to do so.
Cruz +3 – Senator Cruz has substantially improved his presentation and substance for these debates. I could detect very little of the evangelist speaking style I believed would hinder him with the mainstream voters.
Cruz presented very well, and even though he could have been subject to the same attacks as Rubio, he was not affected. Cruz had many moments when he commanded the full attention of the audience in presidential style.
Even though Cruz has been behind Rubio in recent New Hampshire polls, this performance should put him in line for the number two spot behind Trump. He has no chance to catch Trump.
Carson -3 – As we have seen in other recent debates, Dr. Carson does not do well facing down the other candidates, especially as they improve their game. His demeanor seemed a bit whiny to me, and his answers on health insurance seem disorganized. He had no strong moments
Ben Carson is polling very low in New Hampshire and his numbers have tanked nationally. We predicted this after the November 11 debate. In my opinion, his campaign is effectively dead, and we don’t seen any path to resurrection.
Rubio -6 – Rubio was attacked mercilessly by Christie, with great effect causing some awkward moments and a great loss of face for Rubio. It appeared to me and to the on-air commentators that Rubio became very rattled. This was reminiscent of one of the early debates where his reaction to Trump’s attacks caused a similar reaction.
Christie accused him of avoiding answering a question but instead repeating an unrelated message, after which Rubio repeated that message again. Of course the audience saw this clearly and started to boo him. Christie’s remarks about how a governor acts differently from a Senator hit home with the audience. It was prolonged and devastating.
I don’t believe Rubio will lose a great deal with this performance, however his and Cruz’s numbers are close enough that Cruz will likely overtake him for second place. His biggest loss is with an unflawed debate he stood to gain substantially on Trump. But he faltered.
Bush +1 – Governor Jeb Bush projected energy and presented well in this debate. If he had presented this well in previous debates I believe he would be much higher in the polls now.
Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come, but in my opinion, it was not quite strong enough to get more votes. Jeb will go neck and neck with John Kasich for fourth place, I believe the nod for fourth will go to Kasich.
Kasich +2 – Governor John Kasich did a great job, clear grasp of the issues, well presented. When challenged on his record as governor of Ohio, I believe the response of 400,000 new jobs and a budget that went from an $8 Billion deficit to a $2 Billion surplus had substantial impact on the audience.
In my opinion, Mr. Kasich did a slightly better job than Jeb Bush and he has worked tirelessly to reach New Hampshire voters. He is neck and neck with Bush and I believe he will edge him out for fourth.
Christie +5 – Governor Chris Christie was loaded for bear against Rubio and used it to great advantage. He had yet another powerful and convincing debate.
Governor Christie stepped on Rubio successfully (see above) with his comparison of Governor vs Senator. The back and forth with Rubio gave him a huge upswing in momentum over a more extended time. To be honest, if people actually listened to his words, it should be a substantial boost for him, but these debates tend to be driven by emotion and optics rather than logic.
His poll numbers have been low all along, leading me to believe his campaign team isn’t strong. This performance should improve his position somewhat and I believe he has a very slight chance of catching Jeb Bush for fifth place. However I am predicting a sixth place position for him.
So based on this debate and the recent polls numbers, we predict the New Hampshire resulting order will be Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie and Carson.