- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

With the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and his plane serving as a hallowed backdrop, the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday night produced plenty of sharp exchanges, policy solutions and some clear winners and losers.

Here’s The Washington Times’ instant analysis of who won and who didn’t.


Carly Fiorina: Her calm and firm grasp of policy, her coy counterattacks on Donald Trump and her forceful presentation of specific ideas made a clear case she belongs on the main stage going forward. Her retort to Mr. Trump’s earlier insult on her looks likely scored big with female voters.

Chris Christie: He’s not a favorite of the conservative base but on Wednesday night he put his strongest credentials forward as a national security thinker and likely won points with everyday Americans when he broke up the business resume braggadocio between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Fiorina with an appeal to focus on the working class. He was assertive in portraying himself as a law-and-order Republican open to criminal justice reform and seeing the war on drugs as a failure.

Marco Rubio: His succinct policy prescriptions on national security issues ranging from Iran to Russia introduced the country to his strongly held beliefs on foreign policy and likely helped unfamiliar voters to see him as presidential despite his youthful appearance.


Ted Cruz: To the base of the party, he gave cogent and passionate answers certain to stir the hearts of the faithful. But he still comes off more like a college debate club champion with intellectual intensity, without the likeability or humility of the debate’s posthumous host, Ronald Reagan.

Jeb Bush: His personal defense of his brother’s record protecting America after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his discussion of his own marijuana use 40 years ago likely added a humanizing dimension that helped melt the Bush family’s rap as awkward, robotic and scripted public speakers. He positioned himself as a candidate with experience and a desire to pursue policy with common sense and thoughtfulness. But his last-name — and the fatigue associated with it — still remain a liability.

Scott Walker: He kept his record and affinity for Reagan front and center and did nothing to hurt his standing as a common-sense Midwestern governor with a clearly conservative record. At some point, though, he needs to make a more aggressive move to re-enter the top tier from which he has fallen.

John Kasich: He did what he needed to do to position himself as a deeply experienced governor whose name is NOT Bush.


Donald Trump: This debate was inevitably stacked to put him on defense, with 10 rivals and the debate moderators armed to the hilt with his past gaffes, temperamental statements and braggadocio. And it clearly took a toll. Mr. Trump had to recant, correct or explain away several of his harshest statements and it made him look defensive. He also struggled to provide succinct, specific policy solutions. It will take a few days to see the impact among voters, but this debate could denote the high water mark of Trump’s popularity. That said, he remained true to his personality and made no apologies for it. And he smiled, laughed and joked his way through a difficult night.

Rand Paul: His presence felt small on a stage full of big, confident personalities, perhaps best evidenced by his difficult time trying to win time to respond to Mr. Trump’s claim he was the only candidate on stage to oppose the Iraq war. Mr. Paul’s whiny effort to request time was ignored for quite some time. And when he got a chance to answer questions on marijuana legalization, a favorite issue of his, he yielded to Mr. Bush and then got outtalked by Mr. Christie.

Ben Carson: His poll numbers likely won’t be hurt by Wednesday’s event since his strength is likeability. But on the art of debating, this pediatric neurosurgeon finished near the bottom of the pack. His policy answers wandered and lack the specificity and command of the likes of Mrs. Fiorina, Mr. Christie, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio.

The CNN Moderators: The tail wagged the dog too often in this debate as the strong personalities on stage seized control of many moments on stage and the clock. And the repeated efforts of the questioners to prompt personal spats unrelated to policy likely felt like ratings-baiting to everyday Americans watching on TV. Finally, there’s no reason to have a three-hour debate!

Mike Huckabee: One of the evangelical voters’ favorites, he simply didn’t get enough air time or questions to show off his smooth, friendly way of discussing policy.

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