A grade and breakdown of each candidate’s performance
Marco Rubio- A
Rubio killed it. He was solid in the previous debates but he owned this one. He was poised and precise on defense and perpetually confident on the mic. His intelligence shined through every time he spoke, and his charisma dwarfed all others on the stage -sans a few moments from Cruz and Christie (and maybe one from Trump). He presented as a candidate that could absolutely go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton on a debate stage. When Bush decided to attack him on his absenteeism in the senate, it seemed he may have Rubio on the ropes for a moment, but he promptly responded by absolutely squashing him. He was sharp all night long. He has been sitting right on the perimeter, but if primary voters are paying attention, that is about to change.
Ted Cruz- A
Without a doubt the moment of the night belonged to Ted Cruz. Cruz attacked the liberal media for its alleged biases and gotcha tactics, and then focused his aim on CNBC and the moderators for asking aggressive and derogatory questions that had nothing to do with the issues. His rant, which spoke directly to a base of voters who love to decry mainstream media coverage, garnered the most applause of the evening by far. Feeding off the surge of energy from this early triumph, Cruz continued to impress with measured and focused responses. Every time he spoke he commanded the room with a relaxed and centered approach. He had moments of levity and was calm and even comedic at times. It’s still highly unlikely he will win the nomination, but his profile has risen considerably. Cruz is back in the mix.
Chris Christie- B+
Christie had some classic “Christie” moments where he really seemed to be throwing the politics of the whole machine out the window in favor of honesty. He did his, “let me level with you” thing, which can come off as pandering, but for Christie, most of the time it lands. The schtick seems genuine, it doesn’t seem like a schtick actually -it feels authentic. Every time he spoke he was frank and direct. He too, successfuly fired back at the moderators when asked a question about fantasy football stating, “fantasy football! We have ISIS and al Quaeda attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football?” He touched on a transparent and realistic approach to the problems of the social security system. He was blunt, and it may not have been what voters wanted to hear, but his pomposity and candor sold it.
Donald Trump- C+
It wasn’t a disaster for Trump, but it didn’t do much to help him either. His lack of experience and knowledge on foreign policy and aspects of the economy began to shine through in certain moments. There was a point in the night when it felt like a space began to split open between Cruz, Rubio and Christie and the rest of the candidates. Trump did his Trump thing, waving his hands, gesticulating like nobody’s business, and he got in a few jabs here and there, but overall it was a pretty measured performance from the man that is typically anything but.
Carly Fiorina- C+
Fiorina was solid. She spoke well and never seemed flustered, but her performance wasn’t quite enough. Compared with her last, this one was a bit of a let down. There were no real gaffes and some solid moments, but she never asserted herself over the madding crowd. She threw no interceptions but no touchdowns either. After a temporary seperation, now it seems she has come back to the peloton if you will.*
Mike Huckabee- C-
He was present and accounted for and he did his Mike Huckabee thing, but voters know who he is, he’s been around for a while and nobody seems to care. He needed to stand out and take control and he didn’t. He wasn’t overtly bad, but he did nothing to improve his standing.
Jeb Bush- D
Not a great night for John Ellis. His surprise attack on his former padawan Rubio seemed harsh and petty and Rubio’s response made Bush seem like a hypocrite and a desperate candidate -which he very well may be at this point. He had a few decent moments, but overall he was wobbly and irritated. At one point he threatened, “you find a Democrat that’s cutting taxes, cutting spending $10; I’ll give him a warm kiss.” Odd phrasing, and Bush now owes President Obama a warm kiss. On a night where the current leaders, Trump and Carson, either treaded water or began to drown, Cruz, Rubio and Christie rose to the occasion. Bush did not. There’s still time, but he’s in big trouble.
John Kasich- D
He kicked his night off with a direct attack on what he called, “fantasy tax schemes” -a comment aimed squarely at the surface level plans of Trump and Carson. He claimed that the bombastic intentions of certain candidates were severely lacking in their real-world application. And this seemed to resonate a bit, although Trump’s response linking him to Lehman Bros. surely took him down a peg. He was -as in prior debates- ridiculously repetitive and loud, and he rarely seemed to answer the questions that were asked of him.
Ben Carson- D
I can’t really say much as to Carson’s performance because every time he began to speak I began to doze off. I know the latest poll has him in the lead, but that will change very soon. He’s just too boring; there’s no way around it. His delivery makes Ben Stein sound like Muhammad Ali. And beyond his demeanor and lack of public speaking prowess, his content was weak. Whenever he was pressed for details he deflected and stammered his way through an array of non-answers. Perhaps it’s time to dust off the ol’ scalpels Dr.Carson, this presidential thing isn’t going to work out.
Yes, this is a photo of Paul from the last debate; I was unable to find one from last night. And yes, this is an indication of his performance.
Rand Paul- F
Paul was invisible for 95% of the debate. He’s far better at filibustering than he is at running a campaign or debating.
I know it’s difficult to control a debate with 10 people -especially this bunch- but that was rough. They didn’t deserve the level of scorn they received at all, but their questions were too condescending and abrasive and they spoke for far too long and inserted themselves into the action too often. Things got a bit better as the debate progressed, but overall, it was quite a mess.
by Jesse Mechanic
*Yes, that was a football metaphor followed immediately by a cycling metaphor -deal with it.
Jesse Mechanic is the Editor-in-chief of The Overgrown.