First, CNN is to be congratulated on holding a good debate last night. Jake Tapper and Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times asked pointed, direct questions. They avoided the “gotcha” of the Fox moderators without letting candidates slip out of the question asked. Everyone benefited, too, from the longer answer time. Each had more than a minute to answer the complicated questions always thrown at them.
From the beginning, Trump owned the debate. He fired a polite warning shot at the establishment by telling Republicans that he was bringing new people to the party. He set the tone of civility like a Cesar Milan pack leader. It was amazing how they all fell in line. You want presidential? I’ll give you presidential. Trump appeared dignified and eschewed the mud wrestling of previous debates. The others did, too, partly also because they saw how Rubio dropped after his childish attacks in the last debate.
The audience was still packed with GOPe. Only this time they switched from hooting and applauding Rubio to Cruz. That tells you something, doesn’t it? They failed with Rubio and have moved on to Cruz for the anyone but Trump campaign.
This time Trump was particularly good about getting his points across. He hit them all, then did it again. Make America Great Again; his anti-establishment, anti Washington card; his self funding and not obliged to lobbyists stance; his position on trade favoring American workers; the loss of jobs and this time he mentioned the drop in salaries; stopping graft and fraud and using that to cut the budget; his plan for immigration; his support of the military. He worked them in as often as possible.
Cruz, again, was preacher man. His style irritates me more each time. In answering a question he first makes some introductory comments. Then he starts winding up. His voice gets louder and he hits his preachy tone. Cruz makes rhetorical pauses, then gets dramatic. He goes beyond the time limit and then when called on it, abuses it some more. It’s all lawyer stuff and if you like that, he’s good at it.
Noticed how Kasich’s face twitched at certain questions. He didn’t look good on Common Core or Social Security. Dana Bash pointed out that he told a woman questioning his plans “to get over it” when it comes to Social Security. Mouth twitch showed his discomfort.
Kasich tried to connect several times via his family’s blue collar background, working in the steel mills. I thought his dad was a postman, well, nevermind. Rubio used this schtick, too. He opened by mentioning his immigrant dad and then mentioned his mom in the Social Security part. He said his mom was here and he certainly didn’t want to jeopardize her social security. But he does want to raise the age to 70, which probably won’t go over well.
Rubio tried to be more statesmanlike, but it’s hard to get beyond the silly jabs he made at the last debate. He wasn’t as desperate, but he was nervous.
Trump had a good closing: