Thursday night was Opening Night for American politics with over 24 million tuning into Fox News to watch, not one, but two great debates. With such a crowded field picking winners and losers becomes very nuanced. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, claimed to have done no debate prep and it showed. He didn’t strike out but he could have hit some homeruns. Overall, his performance was impressive but he didn’t change the landscape of the race yet. Before we get into the main event let’s discuss the undercard of underdogs, aka the Happy Hour Debate, with the percentage point Presidential hopefuls.
OPENING ACT RECAP
The bottom tier candidates in this debate are beyond impressive with Governors, Senators and a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Unfortunately for most of them, they have reached their political peaks. 2016 is not being as friendly as 2012 was to Rick Santorum or Rick Perry. Governors Pataki and Gilmore are finding the 21st Century isn’t interested in 20th Century ideas or politicians. They all were speaking to an empty arena and it showed.
The most human moment belonged to Senator Lindsey Graham. He talked about losing his parents when he was 21 and 22 which left him alone to raise his little sister. To me, it was heart wrenching to hear the story but also refreshing. Instead of a canned answer we got a candid look at what made a candidate. My respect for the man grew, but he didn’t convince me to give him my vote.
Governor Bobby Jindal did an excellent job of showcasing his wonkish ways. However, wonks rarely win hearts and minds with policy points. The lone woman in the race, Carly Fiorina, did win hearts and minds with her fiery rhetoric and no holds barred attitude. Fox should have brought her back for the 9 o’clock show.
THE MAIN EVENT
It’s easy to get lost in a crowded field which is exactly what happened to Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. None of them helped or hurt their chances with their performance. Carson was too polite to be behind a podium. Cruz defended a dictator, which was an interesting approach. Walker was quiet, very quiet.
Thankfully, Rand Paul and Chris Christie got the memo that Thursday night was supposed to be a debate and got into some heated disagreements. Both men illuminated their positions but didn’t seem to win over the crowd. Paul wanted to push buttons and Christie was looking to punch someone in the face. Both men got their wish.
Huckabee had a few head scratchers with his comments regarding the purpose of our military and those freeloading pimps and prostitutes. He did hit the ball out of the park with this gem: “A lot of the B-52s we’re flying, we’ve only got 44 that are in service, combat ready, and the fact is, most of them are older than me. And that’s pretty scary.” I for one appreciate a politician with a sense of humor.
Trump was Trump and Bush bumbled throughout the evening. Kasich and Rubio stole the show. It was a little unfair as Kasich played to the hometown crowd, while Rubio made a strong case for his candidacy. Thankfully, this is only the beginning. The next few months are going to mold a great race.
-By Mick McKeown, mypoliticalimpact.com
Mick McKeown is a creative and resourceful campaign professional who is well versed in contributing to political initiatives and interacting with elected officials. From Pennsylvania, McKeown now lives in Falls Church with his wife and daughter.