Who Won the First GOP Debate?

 

debatetoppernewtop33660_20150806_185747The first GOP debate just wrapped up — not the one with Jeb! and The Donald, but the B-team. These are the seven candidates who didn’t have enough juice in the polls to make the main debate coming at 9 p.m. ET. All of them entered this JV debate hoping to make enough of an impact to enter the top tier the next time around. I wish Fox News had set it up so the winner of this contest immediately reported to the prime time debate, but alas, this is politics, not “Top Chef.”

It is a bit of a misnomer for the RNC to call these proceedings a “debate.” None of the candidates interacted, but rather held a low-energy Q-and-A with two Fox reporters. Questions were asked; each candidate had 60 seconds to respond. So how did they do? Here’s how I rank the performances:

1. Carly Fiorina

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO easily won the contest. She was poised, prepared, and tough. Looking at her calm command of the stage reminded many social media types of Margaret Thatcher. Every answer was concise, compelling, and left viewers wanting the other candidates to be quiet so they could hear her more.

Standout quote: “On day one in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls. The first one would be to my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel. The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime/anywhere, for real, inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system… As important as those two phone calls are, they are also very important because they say this: America is back in the leadership business. And when America does not lead, the world is a dangerous and a tragic place. This is a bad deal. Obama broke every rule of negotiation. Yes, our allies are not perfect. But Iran is at the heart of most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East through their proxies.”

2. Rick Perry

Many wanted to see the Texas governor exorcise his debate demons from 2012. Tonight he stumbled out of the gate but got better with each answer, offering detailed and strong responses on a variety of issues. Early on, he seemed like the playoff quarterback with first-quarter jitters, wanting to do too much, too fast. He soon calmed down, getting back some of that Perry swagger, tempered with the intellectual gravitas of his hipster glasses. (He’s the opposite of Superman; he puts on the specs to gain superpowers.)

Standout quote: “The American people are never going to trust Washington, D.C., [on illegal immigration] and for good reason. We hear all this discussion about, well, ‘I would do this,’ or ‘I would do that,’ when the fact is, the border is still porous. Until we have a President of the United States that gets up every day and goes to the Oval Office with the intent purpose of securing that border, and there’s not anybody on either one of these stages that has the experience of dealing with this as I have for over 14 years with that 1,200-mile border… [T]hen Americans will believe that Washington is up to a conversation to deal with the millions of people that are here illegally, but not until. If you elect me president of the United States, I will secure that southern border.”

3. Bobby Jindal

Gov. Jindal was fine, but just that — fine. He was steady and solid, smart and prepared, but offered nothing memorable enough to launch him to the next level. A competent performance is better than a bad one, but he needs a couple of grand slams if he wants to stay in this thing.

Standout quote: “[U]nlike President Obama, I’ll actually name the enemy that we confront. We’ve got a president who cannot bring himself to say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ Now, Bill, he loves to criticize America, apologize for us, criticize medieval Christians. How can we beat an enemy if our commander-in-chief doesn’t have the moral honesty and clarity to say that Islam has a problem, and that problem is radical Islam, to say they’ve got to condemn not generic acts of violence, but the individual murderers who are committing these acts of violence.”

4. Rick Santorum

Like Jindal, former Sen. Santorum was competent, but wasn’t able to separate himself from the pack. As in 2012, Santorum often got bogged down by listing his decades-old legislative victories which bore more than inform. The average voter doesn’t care about Senate procedure, as President John Kerry can tell you.

Standout quote: “We’re a country of laws, not of men, not of people who do whatever they want to do. I know we have a President who wants to do whatever he wants to do, and take his pen and his phone and just tell everybody what he thinks is best. But the reason America is a great country, the reason is because our compassion is in our laws. And when we live by those laws and we treat everybody equally under the law, that’s when people feel good about being Americans.”

5. George Pataki and Jim Gilmore (tie)

Jim Pataki and George Gilmore — sorry, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore — won the Adm. Stockdale award for “who am I and what am I doing here?” Both were governors a very long time ago and spent most the debate reminding viewers that they are actual candidates. They would have been better served just reading their LinkedIn profiles.

Standout quote: I don’t remember any. For Pataki, I spent most the time trying to figure out his odd mannerisms. He seems to have extra facial muscles and all of them twitch. That — and the fact he always looks like he just smelled something bad — was very distracting. For Gilmore, I closed my eyes and thought Rosco P. Coltrane was promising to get ISIS along with them Duke boys. (Seriously, RNC, send these two back to the locker room.)

7. Lindsey Graham

If Rick Perry downed too many Red Bulls coming into the debate, Sen. Graham must have popped several Ambien. He was slow, dreary, and pivoted every question back to invading some Middle Eastern country. In each response, it seemed like he was reading some arcane Senate rule into the official record. One time he tried to summon anger but looked more like he was going to cry.

Standout quote: “Do we all agree that ISIL is not the JV team? If I have to monitor a mosque, I’ll monitor a mosque. If I have to take down a cyber wall, I’ll take it. If I have to send more American troops to protect us here, I will do it. [Hillary Clinton] will not. She has empowered a failed agenda. She is going to empower a failed solution to an American economy dying to grow.” (Yes, this was in response to a question on how to fix the economy.)

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  1. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    Great to hear!  I’m for Carly.  I could not watch it because I “cut the cord”.

    • #1
  2. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Fiorina had great answers that sounded like they were delivered by an actual human being.

    • #2
  3. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    It was Jim Gilmore, hands down.

    • #3
  4. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    Could not disagree more on Governor Perry. I thought his answers were stilted and given with a quivering, weak voice and was always playing from behind.

    His odd support of Carly Fiorina for Secretary of State was a bit strange.

    Carly was obviously #1 and then Jindal #2.

    Gilmore and Pataki were debating ca. 2000.

    Santorum’s act is done and Graham is ca. 2004.

    • #4
  5. David Sussman Contributor
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Agreed with your order except for Perry. He didn’t bring his A-game. Jindal for 2nd. I have become a big fan of Carly. 2016 should be the year for the citizen candidate.

    • #5
  6. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I couldn’t disagree about Fiorina, although the “two phone calls” line is becoming one of her staples already.  What really struck me was how second-rate the whole broadcast seemed, almost as if Fox had a “well, we have to do this, but . . . ” attitude.  Wildly different questions of different difficulty for different people, follow-ups on some issues but not on others, “challenging” some answers, but not others.  These second-tier candidates received a second-tier presentation, which is of no help to any of them.  Let’s hope the first team is better served.

    • #6
  7. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Fiorina.  I’m really impressed by her.

    • #7
  8. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    Hoyacon:I couldn’t disagree about Fiorina, although the “two phone calls” line is becoming one of her staples already. What really struck me was how second-rate the whole broadcast seemed, almost as if Fox had a “well, we have to do this, but . . . ” attitude. Different questions of different difficulty for different people, follow-ups on some issues but not on others, “challenging” some answers, but not others. These second-tier candidates received a second-tier presentation, which is of no help to any of them. Let’s hope the first team is better served.

    This is a good point about Fox. They did a terrible disservice to these candidates by making it look like a cable access debate.

    • #8
  9. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Carly by a mile.  Not even close.

    • #9
  10. The Forgotten Man Inactive
    The Forgotten Man
    @TheForgottenMan

    Ditto here.  Carly’s my man.

    • #10
  11. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    James Stockdale did a hell of a lot more for American than George Pataki ever did…

    • #11
  12. Richard O'Shea Coolidge
    Richard O'Shea
    @RichardOShea

    I listened to it on the radio driving home from an out of state meeting.  Fiorina came across the best.  Pataki was surprisingly good on the radio – I guess I couldn’t see the facial tics.

    Perry was better on the radio than Jindal.

    I almost drove off the road listening to Graham – from drowsiness.

    • #12
  13. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: or Pataki, I spent most the time trying to figure out his odd mannerisms. He seems to have extra facial muscles and all of them twitch. That — and the fact he always looks like he just smelled something bad — was very distracting.

    I spent a couple minutes watching and listening to Pataki trying to figure out who he reminds me of.  Then I figured it out.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cs5O0PEnYs

    • #13
  14. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Carly destroyed everyone.

    • #14
  15. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

     Hoyacon: Different questions of different difficulty for different people, follow-ups on some issues but not on others, “challenging” some answers, but not others.  These second-tier candidates received a second-tier presentation, which is of no help to any of them.  Let’s hope the first team is better served.

    I’m glad I didn’t watch this. I would have gotten angry. I think Fox is horrific at political theater, transparent and pedestrian.

    All these debates make the candidates look small – and the anchor-journos look large. The first candidate that calls them out on this will earn my respect forever.

    • #15
  16. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    On my rarely used Twitter account I just stopped following Perry and started following Fiorina (I can’t put up with multiple politicians at the same time).

    • #16
  17. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Did anyone else notice that these people had no audience. The whole thing ended up feeling kind of empty to me. I think after several cycles of these kind of stand and deliver debates I am growing sick of them. This one felt so hollow to me. No one said anything that memorable, and everyone was more interested in engaging someone who was not on stage. I think having a series of professional campaign adds by each candidate shown in a row would have been a more interesting experience.

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Who the heck is Jim Gilmore?

    • #18
  19. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Jim Gilmore is the man who will save America!

    • #19
  20. Quark Inactive
    Quark
    @Quark

    Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio are my dream team for running mates.

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Maybe Lindsey is running for Secretary of War.

    Not Defense.  War.

    • #21
  22. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Mostly agree but I would (barely) put Gilmore ahead of Santorum, mostly because I know nothing of Gilmore and am tired of Little Ricky.

    • #22
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    DrewInWisconsin:Who the heck is Jim Gilmore?

    Former Governor of Virginia.  Yeah, I had to ask too.

    • #23
  24. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    DrewInWisconsin:Who the heck is Jim Gilmore?

    I heard he killed a man!

    • #24
  25. Benjamin Glaser Inactive
    Benjamin Glaser
    @BenjaminGlaser

    Watch Carly take Chris Matthews out on MSNBC.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/article/2569744/

    • #25
  26. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Percival:

    DrewInWisconsin:Who the heck is Jim Gilmore?

    Former Governor of Virginia. Yeah, I had to ask too.

    That man has a name! I really don’t know why he is running.

    • #26
  27. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Randy Weivoda:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: or Pataki, I spent most the time trying to figure out his odd mannerisms. He seems to have extra facial muscles and all of them twitch. That — and the fact he always looks like he just smelled something bad — was very distracting.

    I spent a couple minutes watching and listening to Pataki trying to figure out who he reminds me of. Then I figured it out.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cs5O0PEnYs

    PERFECT.

    • #27
  28. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Quark:Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio are my dream team for running mates.

    Hopefully the Koch bros will agree with us. :)

    • #28
  29. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Thanks for this post. I didn’t get to watch or listen, so this was helpful.

    • #29
  30. BuckeyeSam Inactive
    BuckeyeSam
    @BuckeyeSam

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Randy Weivoda:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: or Pataki, I spent most the time trying to figure out his odd mannerisms. He seems to have extra facial muscles and all of them twitch. That — and the fact he always looks like he just smelled something bad — was very distracting.

    I spent a couple minutes watching and listening to Pataki trying to figure out who he reminds me of. Then I figured it out.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cs5O0PEnYs

    PERFECT.

    Nope. Lt. Bogomil in Beverly Hills Cop.

    http://cdn.hark.com/images/000/312/122/312122/original.jpg

    • #30
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