Last Night’s Debates–An Overview

I watched both debates last night. What a blessed difference from the CNBC debacle a couple of weeks ago. The moderators at Fox Business Network didn’t use their moment in the limelight to focus on themselves or cause unnecessary turbulence with their questions. Instead, the questions were direct, short, meaningful, and fair. Congratulations, Fox Business, for bringing back professionalism to these debates.

The first debate, with the so-called “undercard” candidates, was quite good, primarily because there were only four debaters. All had plenty of time to express their views without having to resort to quick sound bites to make news. All four—Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum—were articulate and focused on their desired messages.

My only concern about that first debate was Jindal’s approach. I’ve always liked Jindal, and most of what he said last night was what I believe. Yet he came across as so pugnacious in attacking the others that I fear he lost ground. I was disappointed with the attitude he displayed; it came across to me as a desperate attempt to be noticed. While it is important to point out the differences among the candidates, he almost made the others seem like the opposition when the real opposition is in the other party.

The main debate was substantive, thanks primarily to the honest questioners. There were only a couple instances of the back-and-forth threatening to go off the rails, but even those were rather entertaining and allowed us to see how the candidates can handle themselves in a tense situation.

Wisconsin Debate

I won’t go down the list of all the candidates and even attempt to point out the strengths and weaknesses—it would fill this post so full you wouldn’t want to read to the end.

I do, though, believe there were some genuine “winners,” in the sense that they came across as the real adults on the stage. In my opinion, the following helped their cause the most (in alphabetical order): Cruz, Fiorina, and Rubio. Carson held his own and had a good moment with his humorous response to the criticisms he has had to endure about his life story.

Jeb Bush did better than in the other debates, but I don’t think he did what was needed to put himself back in the top tier. Rand Paul is always good when talking about limiting government, but not anywhere near what I want when he weighs in on defense and terrorism.

Trump is trying to be more civil, but you can see the snarkiness seeking an outlet. It turns out he was substantively wrong in his answer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; he included China in it, but China was not a part of it.

Kasich needs to go home and be a good governor. Sorry, but to me he is more than a little annoying.

As I watch these debates, I simultaneously watch the Twitter feeds from National Review and Townhall. The comments are often amusing, and I enjoy the immediate feedback. What I noticed, however, is the wide swing of opinion about the candidates’ performances, even among those who call themselves conservatives. A glowing report from one person is followed immediately by a negative report from another about the same incident or comment from one of the candidates.

Not all conservatives see these candidates in the same light. I’m hoping the field winnows down considerably in the next weeks, but we’ll probably have to wait until after Iowa and New Hampshire in February.

In the meantime, listen carefully to each one who is telling you why he or she should be the next commander in chief. This is a critical decision.