So, did you watch the great debate? Or should I say, debates, because, weirdly, there were two of them? I though it was great theater, for the first time in a long time I'm genuinely engaged with the Presidential race, trying to figure out who to support.
Longtime readers know, I'm actually more of a Democrat than a Republican (voted for Al Gore), but ever since the vast lurch to the left which started with John Kerry and has continued with Barack Obama, I just can't support Democratic candidates.
My first observation echos the Michael Ramirez cartoon at left; the GOP has a lot of bench strength. I can't support all of these candidates - and of course, Donald Trump is an idiot - but there are a lot of good choices. Watching the debate, you would have to conclude it's an impressive group of people. Also a pretty diverse group, and a fairly young group. Good stuff.
So ... who won?
I think besides the Republican Party itself, there were three winners:
- Marco Rubio. Even if you don't agree with him, he's good. We could do much worse.
- Ted Cruz. The smartest guy in the room. I'm afraid he might be slightly too arrogant, but how great would it be to have a smart President?
- Carly Fiorina. The clear winner of the "undercard", she's a strong contender. She needed people to get to know her, and they did.
A fourth choice would be Ben Carson; he's an impressive guy (brain surgeon!) but I just don't see him as a politician. Making the leap from business leader like Fiorina is easier.
[Update: after thinking about it, another victor last night was Fox. They did a great job of asking tough questions. Can you imagine MSNBC treating Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden that way?]
And ... who lost?
- Donald Trump. I guess there will always be a group rooting for him, the way you root for a train wreck, but he showed himself to be unserious*.
- Jeb Bush. Nobody could figure out why he was riding so high in the polls, and after last night, he won't be anymore.
- Scott Walker. He's a likeable candidate and had a lot of momentum, but I think he failed to stand out in this distinguished company, and lost ground as a result.
This debate probably presages a shakeout where the candidates that were already off the radar and didn't do anything to improve will fall further back. Rand Paul, Rick Perry, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, etc.
You might find this interesting: Camille Paglia rates the debaters (in the Hollywood Reporter). A feminist liberals take on the GOP's slate. I found her comments quite insightful, and it's especially important to understand how these candidates will appeal to potential undecided voters, not just how they're regarded preaching to their choir.
It will be a most interesting campaign. Pass the popcorn!
* an observation about Trump: he is not going to be the Republican candidate, and I think after this becomes obvious to him he's going to drop out. I was mildly worried that he'd be a divisive force as an independent candidate, but I can't really see him doing that; first, it would be expensive, and he doesn't have as much money as he says he does, and second, he would ultimately lose, and he hates losing.