The third GOP Presidential Debate, held last night on CNBC, had few big moments for the candidates but several long minutes of public defeat for liberal media. The candidates were repeatedly asked questions that could be described as “unskillful” if one were trying to be overly polite to the moderators. But several of the candidates stepped up to the challenge, calling out the moderators and delivering lines that should help them in the polls.
Donald Trump showed that he has evolved as a candidate. He was much more disciplined than in the past but was still able to give better than he got from both his fellow debaters and from the moderators. He won because he did no damage and may have helped his campaign by showing he’s got more substance than many have accused him of having. No damage and some benefits makes him the debate winner because he’s already leading or basically tied with Ben Carson in most polls.
Ben Carson did well but didn’t seem to have much fire. His answers were careful and humble on a night when many others were making risky comments and even some attacks to increase their profiles. I don’t know that he hurt his campaign but I can’t really see where he helped it either.
Marco Rubio had a great night and may have positioned himself as leader of the mainstream candidates. He was attacked by Jeb Bush and beat back the attack handily. He was attacked on his finances by the moderators and slapped them hard while turning it to his advantage by speaking to the voters about how he was not born rich and how he feels voters financial struggles because he shares them. A solid performance with several great moments that will undoubtedly be rebroadcast in the coming days. This should help him with donors and make it so his campaign has no problem financing for the long haul.
Ted Cruz also had several great moments during the debate. Some were substantive but his best lines were his attacks on the liberal media, including the debate moderators. This debate will keep Cruz in the campaign for the long haul as well.
Carly Fiorina had a few good moments but was unfortunately not given enough time to really shine. The moderators seemed to have made a point of not asking her or Donald Trump many questions so as to give the other candidates more time. That is unfortunate as she is one of the best candidates on the stage. Low contributions may make her leave the campaign at some point but she’s a solid candidate for the VP slot if she does end up dropping out of running for the top ticket. If she does get some bump in the polls from this debate and can increase her campaign coffers, then she too will be in for the long haul. But I don’t think she had enough time in the spotlight last night to do either.
The remaining candidates, Kasich, Huckabee and the lower tier candidates (Graham, Jindhal, etc) are on borrowed time. They don’t have the money they need to last more than a few more months.
The big story for the night other than the candidates performance was the embarrassing performance of the moderators. Their bias was clear from the get go and they didn’t even make an attempt to hid it. Their questions were unworthy of the event for the most part, shallow attempts at either demeaning a candidate or pitting one against another. In the end, they only made themselves look bad and further diminished whatever remaining credibility they may have had among conservative viewers.