GOP Detroit Debate, March 3, 2016

It’s a little tardy, but here’s what went down.

The theme was Cruz and Rubio attacking Trump, though they early pledged they wouldn’t, while Kasich says he won’t fight. He’s above it all.

Ideally and normally, insults should not play a part in debates, but Trump has warped the norm and ideals.

Trump’s record is troubling, but he is brash enough to take the attacks. He tried to be the reasonable nice guy, but came up short.

The moderators were excellent, so they’re not the story. We can move on. A+

Here are the candidates and their main points, in alphabetical order, with some analysis as we go along.

Two factors: (1) appearance and tone (rolled into one) and (2) substance.

Cruz:

The question was posed that he has lost with core voters, so hasn’t he been rejected? He replies that this is not about insults or attacks. Talk is easy and can be printed on baseball cap, referring to Trump’s hat. So he goes on the attack soon after his reply.

Cruz hit Trump hard on four donations to Hillary. “Donald Trump in 2008 wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president.” Trump has also supported Jimmy Carter over Reagan and Kerry over Bush; Trump funded five members of the Gang of Eight. He asked Trump why? It wasn’t for business. Trump simply denied it and says it was for business, and he has done many deals. Then Cruz asked his again: Why four checks? Trump’s only reply is that the last person Hillary wants to face is Donald Trump, referring to himself in the third person.

He called on Trump to release the NYT tapes, but Trump said he won’t.

He was strong on the attacks against Trump, but not quite as ferocious as he was at the last debate. It was smart to tell Donald to take deep breaths, indicating he loses his temper. However, does the man know how to smile, even a little as Reagan did? People need an approachable, friendly president. He still comes across as severe and strident and intense. But he knows the issues cold.

Appearance and tone: C-

Substance: A+

Kasich:

He says he doesn’t get into the process of the campaign and the delegates. He kept emphasizing his past record: he has experience in Washington and as the executive in Ohio. That’s the card he has, and it’s a good one.

On religious liberty, he changed his tune and said he would support the business owner who refused to participate in a ceremony that violated his religious beliefs. He added we must use common sense. He wished people wouldn’t sue each other, but lift each other up!

A campaign video shows Kasich putting down Trump. Does Kasich stand by that? He responded: “I’m not fighting!” He tried to show he was above it all.

In my opinion, this business of rising above the fight reminds me of pacifists who enjoy America’s bounties, yet knock the police and military. Sorry, but Trump needs to be taken out or at least diminished. And his constant reference to the past, as in the Bentsen – Quayle debate of 1988, makes him seem Old School. He knows the issues, but he seems unsteady and erratic about remaining conservative. His involuntary movement in his mouth and awkward gestures seem off-putting.

Appearance: C

Substance: B+

Rubio:

Best line of the night: While Cruz was asking Trump to breathe deeply so Trump would stop interrupting, Rubio said: “When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question?” The crowd laughed. Cruz interjected: “I really hope that we don’t — we don’t see yoga on this stage.” Rubio paused a beat and added that Trump is very flexible (Trump had emphasized that he’s very flexible in dealing with people). More laughter.

Rubio attacked Trump on his company making clothes in Mexico and China and has ruined businesses; Trump replied that Rubio is “little Marco” and he lies. Trump will not move his clothes manufacturing from Mexico or China because those countries have devalued currencies so it’s impossible to make clothes over here.

As for immigration, Rubio did the best he could in a senate controlled by democrats. He does want to fix it, however. Then surprisingly Trump says there has to be a little give and take in negotiations “Marco is okay.”

Finally, in foreign policy, Trump has not shown seriousness; for example, if he tells the intelligence community to torture, then they’ll do it. But he can’t just wish it to happen.

Rubio is smooth and calm, and he knows how to smile. He went on the attack, but as noted about Cruz, he wasn’t as ferocious, either. He didn’t deploy ridicule and mockery as he did last time.

Appearance: A

Substance: A+

Trump:

He tried to be the reasonable nice guy, but he lurched over into anger and insults.

As for Romney’s speech, he’s a failed candidate, Trump said.

He favors free trade, but not when China and Mexico and other nations are beating us; we have to redo our trade deals, and he has the best business people lined up.

He’s totally disavows the KKK and David Duke.

Rubio is a lightweight. Trump says his hands are not small; “I guarantee there’s no problem!” That got some laughter. Later in the debate he took back his “lightweight” comment, but not the hands comment.

The moderators pointed out that his waste fraud and abuse won’t cut the gigantic bureaucracy. Effective graphics were shown about the Department of Education ($78 billion) and the EPA ($8 billion). So his cuts won’t come near reducing the deficit significantly. He seemed flummoxed, but he’ll do something about competitive bidding.

His answer about Medicare was problematic, since he promised savings that exceed a portion of the budget. Wallace asked: “You say that Medicare could save $300 billion a year negotiating lower drug prices. But Medicare total only spends $78 billion a year on drugs. Sir, that’s the facts. You are talking about saving more money on Medicare prescription drugs…”

His only reply was that he will negotiate.

He won’t release the tape of the NYT interview, in which he allegedly says he’s flexible about the wall and deportations.

And now we need the highly skilled guest workers, so he’s changing and softening.

Rubio hit him hard on hiring immigrants during the busy season, and Trump replied that people don’t want short-term jobs and it’s all legal. Rubio countered that 300 Americans applied, but they weren’t hired. Clearly they wanted short-term jobs.

When Ted added the point that voters have the right to know both about the tapes, Trump retorted, “No, no. You’re the liar. You’re the lying guy up here … lyin’ Ted.”

Over 100 intelligence experts have said no to Trump, and especially torture. What would he do if they refused to follow his orders? They won’t refuse. “I’m a leader, and they’ll do it.” And “waterboarding is too mild. Let’s go stronger. That’s the way I feel.” What about targeting / bombing families? He makes no apologies about that because terrorist families knew about 9/11.

Question: You tell it like it is! But you reverse yourself! Three sections of tape: Afghanistan … refugees from Syria … Bush lied … He tried to explain himself, and all he could muster is that he went back and studied and changed his mind. He was flexible. But again he appeared off balance.

As for Trump University, people were bilked. Trump says he has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. Rubio corrected him: it’s a D-, and Megyn Kelly piled on and said that was true. Rubio added that Trump conned the students. Trump countered that Rubio couldn’t get elected dog catcher in FL; when Rubio replied, Trump interrupted him, calling him again “Little Marco.”

Trump was in trouble that night because his record is troubling. But he is brash enough to stand there and take it. He does change his mind on a whim, so Cruz and Rubio sensibly pointed out he has no core and can’t be trusted. Does his changing and softening on the issues indicates he was pandering, as Cruz and Rubio said? Of course. But the Hillary campaign won’t let him get away with it. His belief that the military would follow his orders to break the law was repugnant. He is an angry man.

Appearance and Tone: D-

Substance: D-

Finally, everyone said he would support the nominee.

Let’s conclude with some predictions:

It is a fact that two-third of the voters say no to Trump. I also believe that even his marginal supporters—not to mention the undecided voters—will grow weary of Trump’s boorishness because the Rubio-Cruz tag team attacks in the debates are effective. There’s an expiration date on his outlandishness, but not soon enough to defeat him by itself.

Therefore, Trump will get nowhere near 1237 delegates. So we’ll have an open convention.

As for the not-Trump side, Rubio will win FL, like Cruz won TX, even though the polls had Trump in first right now in FL. In state after state the undecided voters go for Rubio in droves, at the last minute. And Carson is out now, so I believe most of the votes will come Rubio’s way.

In an open convention, it will have to be Rubio – Cruz to stop Trump. But if it’s Cruz – Rubio, then so be it. Anyone is better than Trump.

Does Kasich’s refusal to attack Trump signal an alliance later on? Kasich does come across as mildly erratic and unpredictable (mild compared to Trump). We shall see.

So who won?

Cruz and Rubio went on the attack, and this time Trump was flummoxed at one or two points.

Kasich’s attempt to “Rise above It All” when the GOP is threatened by an unelectable recent Democrat and crazy birther doesn’t sit well with me.

So maybe we can say Trump and Kasich lost. And for the record, Trump has never won a debate, for his ignorance of the basic issues is appalling.

Cruz and Rubio won, but between those two the nod has to go to Cruz.

Related:

Five reasons not to vote for Ted Cruz,

Ten reasons not to vote for Trump,

Twelve reasons to vote for Sen. Rubio;

 

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