Review of the January 14, 2016 GOP Debate

What did the forty-two percent who don’t self-identify as conservative or liberal and the millennial selfie voters see in the debate?

It’s high time we analyze the debates from their point of view, as best as it can be discerned.

This post updates the one at American Thinker, on Jan. 15.

No, I’m not using a focus group. It’s called common sense.

Let’s get to the analysis.

All of the candidates were strong; even their one-one-one tussles were smoother and not so acrimonious, but substantive in most cases.

I don’t believe that strong one-on-ones are detrimental. They’re healthy.

Further, people don’t get lost in the policy weeds, so in this post I focus on what the selfie voters see.  Appearances matter for them (but not so much for you or me).

It’s also about persuading the roughly forty-two percent who don’t self-identify as conservative or liberal – the centrists.

I assume the selfie voters run across the political spectrum, including the forty-two percent.

What did they see?

Bush:

He challenged Trump on Muslim immigration, because sending intolerant signals hurts our building a coalition in the Arab and Islamic world.  All Muslims?  Seriously?  We’re not a serious player in the Middle East.  He asked Trump to please (too mousy) change his views.  When Cruz and Rubio were going after each other, he intervened and called them back-benchers.

In his close, he said he has a detailed plan to destroy ISIS, and he can keep us safe.  He can build coalitions, implying that other candidates (i.e. Trump) cannot.

What did selfie voters and the forty-two percent see?  He was relaxed, even when he went on the attack.  But when anyone counter-attacked, his eyes still seem scared and baffled.  He shakes his head in disbelief.

Carson:

Starting off, he looked at his watch and facetiously said he was willing to wait even longer for a first question.  In foreign policy, he said war today is different from what it was before, with traditional military.  Now we have dirty bombs and electrical grid attacks.  We have to prepare.  In the Christie-Rubio debate, he said we can’t tear ourselves apart.

And are Bill’s indiscretions a legitimate topic?  Yes.  Then he excelled in the moral values.  Is this America anymore?  Does she still have standards and values?  We’re having internal wars: race, income, religious, gender.  The solution?  We’re missing Judeo-Christian roots.  The majority believes in them, and that’s what makes America great.

He seemed confused or confusing about a fair tax or a flat tax.  He doesn’t want deductions or loopholes.  How will that help housing and charitable deductions?

Effective, but his outsider experience hurts him.  But at least he circled back around to Obama.

No one went on offense against him because he’s a non-factor.

The selfie voters and the forty-two percent saw a nice man who is not ready for the highest office in the land. He needs to drop out.

Christie:

Everyone says he’s a strong debater, and he is.  Powerful.  Confident.  When Rubio went on offense, his record on Planned Parenthood, gun laws, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, however, was exposed. Christie defended himself by denying the charges. Fact checkers will have to sort it out. He makes the best of his record in deep-blue New Jersey, with his numerous vetoes.  The problem is that I just can’t see how he improves on Cruz or Rubio, who are equally strong in making and scoring their points.

What the selfie voters and the forty-two percent saw: a strong candidate whose appearance needs improvement.  I could see comedians going to town on you-know-what – I hate to state the obvious, because the issue is so shallow.  But he wouldn’t mind the jokes at his expense.  He’s heard it before.  He also comes across as a tough guy.  Primary voters may like it, but would it play on TV in Grandma’s living room and before the selfie voters and forty-two percent?  I have my doubts.

Cruz:

He’s a magnificent debater.  But are debates enough for the selfie voters and forty-two percent?

He was questioned about his failure to disclose a million-dollar loan.  He replied that the moderator got the attack from a NYT hit piece; one NYT op-ed writer (David Brooks) called his views satanic.  His main answer to the loan oversight is that he made a paperwork error, and if that’s the best the NYT can do, then it’s weak.

Then the citizenship question came up: natural born vs. citizen.  He sarcastically said he’s glad to be talking about a “serious” issue, in an apparent attempt to show how silly the issue is.  The Constitution hasn’t changed, he said, but poll numbers have.  Donald is dismayed his poll numbers have fallen (who replied that the polls are again in his favor).  He added that the fact is that if a child of a citizen is born abroad, then he is a natural-born citizen.  Birther theories insist, as Donald says, parents should be born here.  Donald would be disqualified because his mother was born in Scotland.  Donald replied that he was born here.  Cruz says he won’t hold Donald’s mother’s birth in Scotland against him (echoes of Reagan’s surprise counter-attack on Mondale’s question about Reagan’s age, but not the same results for Cruz).

His put down of NYC was needless and foolish. Will it cost him? If so, how much?

What do the selfie voters and the forty-two percent see?  A confident man.  But is he too conservative for them?  The primary voters need to take that into consideration.  They also see someone who, in my view, is not that appealing in the externals.  He seems a little too scary and intense, as if he would move too fast as president, as if he would act like Guy Fawkes and fill the basement of the government building with gunpowder, so to speak.

Kasich:

Call him the Autobiography Man last night.  He circled back around to that several times.  He referred to his time in Congress, when they paid down the debt and the economy grew.  The same is true for Ohio.  His parents came up a few times.  Working-class.

Oil and fracking are benefits to the U.S. and challenges the oil hegemony of the Arab world.  Now we can leverage this against Saudi Arabia and tell them to stop supporting radical clerics.

What did the selfie voters and forty-two percent see?  An older man who gestures a little awkwardly, and his lips tighten up, seemingly involuntarily. He needs to drop out.

Rubio:

He is also a strong debater, matching Cruz stride for stride.  He interrupted the “episode” on Court TV in the Trump-Cruz spat over citizenship.  We must focus on the USA and undo Obama’s mess; we must rebuild the military and repeal executive orders.

He had two main tussles: Christie and Cruz.

First, as noted, Rubio attacked Christie on Common Core and gun control and Planned Parenthood and support for Sonia Sotomayor.  We need someone who disagrees with Obama.  Christie denied it.  Fact-checkers will have to sort it out.

January 16 update: National Review senior political correspondent Jim Geraghty says Christie lied about his record.

Then the Cruz-Rubio tussle was entertaining.  Who won?  It seems to me that Rubio scored more points.  Cruz looked sheepish and baffled a little in the split screen.  Cruz did shoot back, but didn’t answer all the “eleven” charges.

January 16 update: Geraghty also fact-checked Cruz’s record and found Rubio’s attack was right, in the main.

What did the selfie voters and the forty-two percent see?  A younger man who’s in command of the facts and who is much friendlier than all the other candidates on the stage.  Much more appealing to the eye and ear.

Trump:

He was much smoother this time – getting better each time.  His bluntness appeals to certain voters.  Was Nikki Haley right about loudest voices and anger from some in the GOP?  Yes, Trump says.  “I am angry!”  Then he gave a rundown of the country’s mess, saying our country is run by incompetent people.

He won’t back down on a ban on Muslims – a temporary ban.  His Muslims friends thank him for it, too.  Jeb challenged him on this.  We need to build a coalition in the Islamic world, not offend them.

His views on China were inconsistent.  He’s not in favor of a tariff, but now he is.  Is it 45% or not?

His reply to Cruz’s attack on NYC was admirable, but easy to do, just as easy for Cruz if someone had attacked Texas. So there’s nothing special about Trump’s reply.

The selfie voters and forty-two percent see, I believe, exactly what he says: an angry old man.  Will this appeal to them?  Highly doubtful.

So who was the winner?

It was a three-way tie among (in alphabetical order) Christie, Cruz, and Rubio.

Of those three, which one could draw the selfie voters and forty-two percent his way?

Easy call.

Rubio.

The sooner the primary voters realize it, the sooner we can unify and rally around him and win in November.

Note: other “pundits” (I’m not one) say Trump won or co-won. I don’t believe it–not for those who will decide the election in November (as they always do)–the middlings. How can an angry man who does not know the bare minimum about the issues (forget the weeds of policy) be declared the winner or co-winner? To the discerning viewer he’s all bluster and no substance. So, no, he is not to be included among the co-winners. In fact, he will fade and Rubio will rise. Easy prediction that shall happen.

Since Christie wrongly denied his record, maybe he should be taken off the co-winner list.

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