It was by far the best Republican debate so far, and I have seen nearly all of them. It was the least combative and the most substantive. CNN did a reasonably good job moderating. Like Donald Trump said after the fact, it was elegant.
There was one big winner last night: conservatism.
Ted Cruz did an excellent job. I’ve said before that if ideology were the only thing that mattered in 2016, Ted Cruz would be my choice. He articulates conservatism better than anyone on stage.
Donald Trump did an excellent job. He easily deflected what little their criticism their was, and even turned criticism of him from the moderator regarding protesters at his rallies back onto the Democrats. (“They’re angry about what’s going on in our country.”)
Marco Rubio did an excellent job. If we were giving a comeback player of the night award, it would go to him. He conducted himself like a mature adult and articulated his positions well. If Senator Rubio had conducted himself this way throughout his campaign then he’d be doing much better in the delegate count than he is. It’s probably too little to late at this point, but he’s much more credible when not attacking Donald Trump irresponsibly.
Among these three, I honestly cannot choose a winner. I’m not saying it was a three-way tie. I just can’t decide who stood out most.
John Kasich did not do well. He came across as a RINO for at least two reasons: he’s on board with the climate change hoax and he’s on board with common core. The debates will be even more watchable after he drops out.
Overall, the candidates reserved their harshest criticism for the Democrats, entrenched Washington politicians of both parties, and our foreign enemies. This is how it should be. Those are the ones we are ultimately trying to defeat.
Again, CNN did better than I expected. Although their bias did emerge during the question on manmade climate change — they passed it on as fact — at least they didn’t invite the useless Telemundo to participate this time.
With every debate, I understand Donald Trump a little better, and last night was no different. Because he’s the only one on stage with zero political experience, he remains an enigma for the other politicians. I sometimes think I understand him better than his debate opponents. They often criticize him for his fluctuating positions, but I don’t see it that way at all.
Donald Trump has fixed objectives in mind. He wants to make better deals with other nations because we’re getting killed on trade. He wants to defeat militant Islam, and he’s not afraid to call them out. He wants the various nations we help protect to pick up the tab for our protection. He wants to build a wall and halt illegal immigration. These are the results he’s aiming for. How we get there remains in flux. For example, he might threaten a 45% tariff on Chinese imports to get a better trade deal for the U.S. It may be less. Who knows? He loves Israel and wants Middle East peace — he admits it might not be achievable — but he wants to treat all parties as equals. He gets criticism for these positions, but if he gets the results he’s looking for, who cares about the style points?
The two senators have similar objectives, but they seem to get caught up in the minutiae. Donald Trump paints with a much broader brush. He reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield in the movie “Back to School,” a longtime businessman with plenty of real-world experience who finds an adversary in an idealistic professor with very little actual business experience. Dangerfield takes him to school right there in the classroom.
This is Donald Trump. He knows where he’s going. He is confident he will get there. He cannot predict every move between here and the finish line, but he has the framework to get what he wants.