From Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Even with a smaller number of Republicans on hand, it was still a spirited fourth debate for the GOP, as this debate featured more detailed discussions of policy and less of the battling between the candidates and the moderators.
Here is a quick review of what I saw in this debate:
Donald Trump – This was another debate in which Trump did not shine but he didn’t drive into a ditch either. Trump gave the back of the hand to John Kasich, and the GOP front runner was also the recipient of an easy softball question about illegal immigration. But Trump did not seem to win an exchange with Jeb Bush about Syria, the U.S. role and how the Russians have gotten involved in the Middle East. And Trump also struggled with Carly Fiorina: “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” Overall, Trump will stay at the top of the GOP field.
Ben Carson – Carson’s best moment came when he was given a softball by Neal Cavuto, allowing him the chance to address the spate of negative stories about his record. “I have no problem with being vetted,” Carson said. “What I do have a problem with is being lied about and putting it out there as truth.” Carson seemed to be at his weakest during discussions of foreign policy during this debate. Carson and Trump seem like they will be on the same trajectory after this debate, just like the last one.
Marco Rubio – Rubio started strong with his response on why he opposes raising the minimum wage, and several times he clearly had won the debate audience, like when one moderator started asking Rubio about how he would compare his resume to that of Hillary Clinton, as the crowd booed Maria Bartiromo’s premise. Even though he was in between Trump and Bush, Rubio never really sparred with either of them. I would bet that many will say that Rubio was one of the winners of this debate.
Ted Cruz – Cruz remembered how well his attacks on the news media played in the last debate, and he managed to weave that into some of his answers on Tuesday night. The Texas Senator once more struck out at both parties, arguing it’s time for major change in Washington, D.C. Cruz at one point mentioned the need to get rid of sugar subsidies – where is that a big issue? In Florida, maybe previewing a future line of attack on Marco Rubio – something to watch. Cruz certainly had another strong debate; afterwards, he kept saying that Rubio was “in the moderate lane.”
Jeb Bush – The much discussed plan for Jeb Bush to attack Marco Rubio did not materialize in this fourth debate, as instead the former Florida Governor targeted Hillary Clinton the most. Bush also got in a few jabs at Donald Trump, maybe doing the best vis a vis Trump during an exchange over U.S. policies in Syria. Look for the Bush team to argue that he showed he is ready to step in as Commander-in-Chief on day one of a Bush presidency. Some thought Bush might be finished after tonight – that didn’t seem to happen. Bush’s team was quick to put out a YouTube video of his best moments on Tuesday night
Carly Fiorina – Once again, Fiorina did well in a GOP debate. Her problem in this campaign is that she disappears in between those debates. Fiorina once again seemed to get the better of Donald Trump, mocking his comment that he knew Vladimir Putin because he met him during a filming of the show “60 Minutes.” “I’ve met Mr. Putin as well,” Fiorina said. “Not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting.”
Rand Paul – Paul had a spirited debate, clashing with Marco Rubio and others on one main point – how can you be a conservative if you spend all kinds of money on defense and tax cuts, and not be fiscally conservative with the government’s money. “Nobody says where they will cut,” Paul argued at one point. Overall, it seemed like a good debate for Paul, but it wasn’t clear if it would really change his polling dynamics – his backers especially liked his back and forth with Rubio:
John Kasich – As he did in the third debate, the Ohio Governor tried repeatedly to insert himself into this debate, going after Donald Trump and other fellow Republicans, arguing “on the job training doesn’t work.” It wasn’t clear that Kasich broke through in any way, as he tried to separate himself from other challengers to Trump and Carson. At one point, the crowd booed when Kasich wouldn’t wrap up his answer – not exactly the crowd interaction you want as a candidate. “I think we’re doing just fine,” Kasich said after the debate.
As for the pre-debate debate – here’s a quick video review: