Thursday evening marked the first debate among GOP presidential hopefuls for 2016. Fox News hosted this particular event with the moderators being Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier.
Before I hit on a few bullet points from the debate itself, I feel compelled to give kudos to the Fox News Channel for their performance. For all the razzing FNC receives for being a mouthpiece for right-of-center politicos (unwarranted, IMO), I have a hard time seeing CNN or MSNBC being as tough on Democrat presidential candidates as Fox was with the Republican hopefuls. It appeared that the GOP candidates received questions in areas which were perceived as their biggest weakness (e.g. Scott Walker on foreign policy, Chris Christie on the economy, Donald Trump on the "War on Women," Rand Paul on relations with Israel, Jeb Bush on education as well as his brother's decision to go to war in Iraq, etc.).
Anyhow, I've had a couple hours to digest the performances, so here's a few thoughts:
- My personal Top 3 going into the night were (in no particular order) Walker, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Of the three, Rubio acquitted himself best by playing up his terrific personal story, distinguishing himself from Hillary Clinton and articulating the party's message better than all other 16 candidates.
Walker lived up to his self-described "aggressively normal" persona while also emphasizing his solid record as governor of Wisconsin as well as his 3 state-wide electoral wins in 4 years.
Paul made his biggest impact engaging in entertaining exchanges with Trump and Christie.
- Ohio governor John Kasich was perhaps the biggest overachiever. He too comes across as a spectacularly average guy, but didn't get rattled by tough questions. As an ardent supporter of traditional marriage, Kasich's response on how he would handle a child of his being gay was heartfelt and genuine without giving the impression he was softening his policy stance.
- Neither Dr. Ben Carson nor former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have a prayer at winning the Republican nomination in 2016. However, both gave fantastic closing statements.
- Senator Ted Cruz is often labeled the smartest person in the room wherever he is. As a former Solicitor General who scored multiple victories against the U.S. Supreme Court, it's hard to argue that. Unfortunately he got very little speaking time, and at one point wanted to weigh in on exchange between a couple of candidates only to be told by the moderators that they had to go to a commercial.
To be honest, I really wasn't all that fired up about watching the debate but felt obligated to do so given I host a political talk radio show. In retrospect, it turned out to be an entertaining endeavor.