My thoughts on the first GOP debates

Ten Republicans faced-off in Cleveland, Ohio in the first debate of the primaries on August 6th and, just hours earlier, seven others had faced-off. I thought a second debate was a bad idea, but was glad to be proven wrong.

In the first debate, former New York Governor George Pataki’s contradictory stance on abortion prompted me to write him off first. I cannot understand a man who so succinctly gives a pro-life argument while still remaining pro-choice.

While not quite as outwardly hawkish as Pataki or as wet behind the ears as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, a man who I had never heard speak before the debates, struck me as the most impressive of the Governors in attendance. But of them all, businesswoman Carly Fiorina stood out as the clear winner.

In second debate, when the top ten hopefuls were asked whether they would be unwilling to pledge their support to whomever the Republican nominee ended up being, whether they would be willing to run as an independent candidate, the only one candidate to raise his hand was frontrunner Donald Trump. The audience booed.

“If I’m the nominee,” Trump said, “I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But . . . we want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as [a] Republican.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the first to bite. “This is what’s wrong,” Paul blasted Trump, “He buys and sells politicians of all stripes...”

“How is Hillary Clinton,” asked Florida Senator Marco Rubio, “going to lecture me about living paycheck-to-paycheck? I was raised paycheck-to paycheck.” Overcoming the initial shakiness in his voice, Rubio quickly found his confidence. Future generations, he said, “will look back... [on us] and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave... a chance to live.”

“It’s time,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, “that we... protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they’re parts to a Buick.”

When reporter Chris Wallace pressed Trump to give specific evidence that the Mexican government was indeed sending criminals into the United States, Trump dodged the question. Trump was obviously annoyed by the debate, which might account for his surprisingly bad performance.

“If it weren’t for me,” Trump said, “you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.” On that point, at least, he was incandescently correct. Donald Trump, said Ohio Governor John Kasich, “is touching a nerve... People want the wall to be built.” “I also believe we need a fence,” said Rubio, “[but we] need... to prevent illegal immigration [too].” Whether he wins the nomination or not, it is clear that Trump has steered the Republicans in his direction.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the first candidate I’ve ever heard refer to the United States as “the homeland.” Whatever was refreshing about this comment was quickly soured by the skirmish that followed between him and Rand Paul, one that reminded me of the scuffles between Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s unfortunate style of deliverance undermined my inclination to agree with him. I was hoping to hear something other than his prepared, practiced and even preppy cadence, but I was sadly disappointed. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walter and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush neither lost nor gained momentum. I think Ben Carson would make a fine Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The infighting among Republicans is definitely fierce, but so was the infighting between Democrats in 2008.

Regardless of which is more shocking, the fact that Donald Trump’s performance was so anticlimactic or that he appears to still be the Republican frontrunner, my eye will be on him and Carly Fiorina. I never expected one CEO to come out of nowhere, let alone two.


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