CNN GOP Second Debate: Winners, Losers, and In-Betweeners

September 19, 2015
CNN GOP presidential candidates debate. Image source: Rolling Stone

CNN GOP presidential candidates debate. Image source: Rolling Stone

I have been so busy lately that I have not had time to post my analysis of the second GOP debate and predictions based on the candidate performances. Here’s how I call it, be it late as it may:  (I did not get to watch the second tier-debate so I will not give opinions on it)

 

Winners in order: Fiorina, Rubio, Christie, Bush, Cruz. (I include Bush with the winners because he did better than the last debate and better than many expected. He has underperformed and was seriously sliding in the polls and needed a solid performance, so it counts for him as a win.)

 

Held their own, neither won nor lost: Huckabee, Kasich

 

Losers in order: Trump, Carson, Walker, Paul

 

Summary:

 

Fiorina clearly won the debate, especially her exchanges with trump where she took the high road and turned the tables on him making him look silly, and her answer on adding a woman to the currency, refusing to pander as all the men did. She showed a command of the moment and clarity on the issues. Her debate coaching and military advisors are clearly paying off. Carly will become the new flavor of the month and see a dramatic rise in her polling.

 

Rubio also had a big win. He came across as very articulate and well-rounded. I think his answer on the 2nd Amendment was perhaps one of the best of the evening. Rubio should get a solid, though not dramatic rise in his numbers.

 

Surprisingly Christie came across as somewhat a statesman and an adult in the room, mostly staying above the fray and sticking to the issues. His performance should give him a slight increase and keep him on the stage for a while.  Not good news for Bush who is desperately trying to solidify himself as the establishment moderate candidate.

 

Cruz’s exchange with Kasich on Iran was one of the best moments. Kasich tried to get the best of Cruz and was forceful, but Cruz calmly refused to back down and won the exchange as evidenced by the audience response. But Cruz did not perform as well as he is capable of. He seemed a bit tight and rehearsed at times. The moderators were obviously ignoring Cruz and trying to shut him out, but Cruz largely allowed them to. He needs to be more assertive in the future and force his way into the debate as Fiorina and others managed to do. I expect his advisors will be helping him to tweak these things and he will improve as the debates move on.  Cruz was a national debate champion in college multiple years, so his expectations are always going to be high which can be a blessing and a curse.  But Cruz did manage a couple stand out moments and got strong positive response from the audience, so he makes the winners column. Cruz will see neither rise nor fall in his numbers based on this debate, but he will likely be passed by Fiorina and Rubio for now.

 

Never overly impressive, Bush did manage to exceed what have become very low expectations. He got the best of Trump a couple times and proved that he is willing to fight for the right to stay on the stage as the establishment candidate. He should see a much needed slight rise in his poll numbers.

 

As in the first debate, Huckabee actually gave some of the best answers and was very impressive. But it seemed to go largely unnoticed, and there was no clear stand out moment for him. I think his numbers should pretty much stay where they are.  Huckabee received less time than most other candidates.

 

Kasich had some good moments and bad ones. I don’t think anyone expects much from him, so he was pretty much a wash IMO. He should not see much movement.

 

Trump was totally outclassed by basically everyone on the stage. Most of the other candidates won at least one or more exchanges with him, especially Fiorina when asked about Trump’s comments about her face. All the other candidates seemed to have learned from the first debate how to better handle Trump – be the adult in the room and let Trump be Trump…Easy win, low hanging fruit, taking candy from a baby…. Trump was noticeably uncomfortable by not dominating the debate. And his answer arguing for the rich to pay MORE in taxes because the rich don’t pay their fair share was abysmal and should haunt him forever. Arguing in favor of Obama’s tax policy is not a way to win a GOP debate. The novelty of Trump is beginning to wear thin, so as each debate goes on the voters will become less and less forgiving of trump. Trump will see a serious softening of his poll numbers, and since Trump’s whole appeal is about upward momentum and winning, once those number begin to fall off it will continue to self perpetuate downward.  Trump may have gone from the host of the Apprentice, to the host of the Biggest Loser…

 

Carson’s strong point was winning his exchange with Trump on the aforementioned tax issue. But overall Carson seemed way too calm and almost ghost-like. No fire in the belly. For someone who went into the debate with serious poll momentum, he disappointed big time. He also will see a drop in his numbers, though he will stay in the mix for some time.

 

Walker is perhaps the biggest loser of the debate not because of a bad performance, honestly he did fairly well, but because he came to the plate needing a grand slam but only got a base hit. Walker’s campaign is imploding, his fundraising has dried up as his poll numbers put him in serious jeopardy of not making the next debates. A fairly solid performance is effectively the end for Walker who had to have a great one to justify his continued presence in the race.

 

Similar to Walker, Paul’s campaign is on life support. Rand needed some sort of miracle to keep him alive, but a mediocre performance will not get him out of 1% range…Paul will not be able to raise much money going forward nor gain any momentum.

 

It will be interesting to watch the upcoming polls and see how accurate or perhaps inaccurate my predictions are…

By Javan Browder, Managing Editor – Conservative Fifty Dot Com


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