A very good analysis of last night’s CNBC Republican Debate from Gary Bauer, End of Day Report:
Cruz & Rubio Score Big
A few minutes into last’s night debate, I developed a sense of dread. The focus was supposed to be economics, but I am very familiar with John Harwood’s left-wing views. I assumed he would try to skewer the candidates, and he did.
For a while, I was worried about the amount of ammunition being provided to the Democrat National Committee. But my concerns quickly disappeared as one candidate after another rose to the occasion and put the left-wing “moderators” in their place.
Here’s my take on the key moments of last night’s Republican debate.
JEB BUSH — The pressure was on Bush last night to take his game to a new level. I don’t think he did that. I’m not alone. Consider these post-debate headlines:
“The Agony Of Jeb Bush.”
“Jeb Bush’s Campaign On Life Support After Rough Debate.”
“Jeb Bush’s Comeback Strategy Backfires At GOP Debate.”
“The Beginning Of The End For Jeb.”
“For Jeb’s Supporters, It Was A Night Of Crushing Disappointment.”
“Jeb’s Dead: Adios Amigo.”
It’s not that Bush made big gaffes, he just didn’t stand out. Viewers didn’t hear or see anything that would lead them to think that Bush is the best candidate for the job. Commentators right and left are saying this morning that Bush reinforced the sense that he is not a very good candidate. It’s worth remembering that the last time he ran for office was 2002 — more than 10 years ago.
BEN CARSON — I like Dr. Carson a lot. He is a wonderful man who has hit a nerve with evangelical Christians, especially evangelical women. But I don’t think he helped himself last night.
For example, how is it that during an economic debate he was unable to tell us what his proposed flat tax rate would be? Later on, it sounded as if he was proposing a consumption tax too — in addition to a flat tax on income — when he talked about how much money would be generated from “a 15 percent tax on your gross domestic product.”
I am also hearing more concerns about whether a candidate with such a low key demeanor will be capable of stopping Hillary or, if he is elected, defeating the ingrained Washington establishment that plays hardball. Dr. Carson is a very thoughtful man, but politics is a contact sport.
CHRIS CHRISTIE — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knocked it out of the park when he took on an incredibly dumb question about government regulation of fantasy football.
“Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?” Christie asked. “We have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?” (Watch it here.)
Unfortunately, it has to be noted that this was a missed opportunity for Governor Bush. He was asked the question first, a gift on a silver platter. Yet he attempted to answer it by talking about government regulations on day trading and insider information. Gov. Christie handled it perfectly.
TED CRUZ — Senator Cruz had THE moment of the debate when he denounced the moderators for trying to create a “cage match” between the candidates. He wisely did not complain about the questions posed to him, but he called out the moderators for the absurd questions posed to fellow candidates. (Watch it here.) Cruz’s response set a record with focus group viewers.
Cruz seemed more engaging, natural and spontaneous. And as I suggested yesterday, he even opened the debate with a joke, showing his sense of humor. There was never any doubt about his ideology, but he appears to be improving as a candidate.
MARCO RUBIO — I wrote yesterday that Senator Rubio would likely be confronted on his Senate attendance record. The Bush campaign had spent the last several days stoking the issue, believing the media would take the bait. They did and Rubio was ready.
He noted that the media were not at all concerned when Democrats who were running for president regularly missed votes. But Bush, hoping for a breakthrough moment, jumped in and went on the attack. It backfired. Rubio swatted him away almost effortlessly.
He also had one of the best moments of the night when he compared the left-wing media to a Democrat Super PAC and then accused Hillary Clinton of being a liar. (Watch it here.)
DONALD TRUMP — The former GOP front runner held his own, but did not dominate the show. He has definitely moderated his demeanor and tone, perhaps in an attempt to appear more statesman-like. He did not attack Ben Carson, as was expected. Instead, Trump went after Gov. John Kasich, who had gone on a tirade the day before, distorting the views of other candidates on immigration and Medicare.
The Biggest Loser
Without any question, the biggest loser of the night was CNBC and moderators John Harwood, Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla.
For example, after opening the debate by asking all the candidates to name their biggest weakness, John Harwood kicked off the questioning with this gem to Donald Trump: “Let’s be honest, is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”
Immediately following the debate, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blasted CNBC, calling the performance of the moderators “extremely disappointing,” adding “CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.”
Sean Hannity said, “This is going to go down in history as a really bad night for the media.”
However, former Attorney General Ed Meese isn’t letting GOP leaders off the hook. Meese called the debate a “verbal shooting gallery set up by CNBC.” He said, “Whoever selected the moderators should be fired and the RNC leaders who allowed it should be condemned.”