Fox News got mega ratings for Thursday’s debate. Since everyone under the sun has given their analysis, I thought I would give mine. I’ll restrict my thoughts to the top ten contenders, even though I think Carly Fiorina is going to get a lot more attention soon. Here’s my impression of each candidate:
Donald Trump The aftermath of the debate might prove to be his undoing, but the debate itself went fine for him. The first question, on running third party, should have been more adequately prepared for as his response was not that great. Grade: C.
Jeb Bush Looked uncomfortable. And he should be. This is not his father’s Republican Party or even his brother’s. He’s trying to appeal to the GOP based on his record in Florida rather than throwing them red meat. He wasn’t a disaster but he didn’t impress anybody either. Grade: C.
Scott Walker He didn’t do “bad” but his abortion position is going to come back to haunt him if he makes it to the general. Still hasn’t convinced many establishment Republicans that he’s ready for prime time. Grade: C-
Marco Rubio While not a huge debate win, Rubio came across well here and will be an adequate candidate for the GOP establishment to rally around should Jeb falter. Has good people skills and that counts for something. Grade: B+
Mike Huckabee Probably one of the more overlooked candidates; Republicans like Huckabee but very few have him as their top choice. Not sure if he’ll be able to capitalize on the debate but he did well. Grade: A
Ted Cruz Cruz was one of the winners of the debate. He reminded conservative Republicans why they liked him so much in the past and he’ll once again be on their radar, especially if Trump collapses. Grade: A
Ben Carson The soft-spoken Carson’s night was saved by his closing statement. As with Huckabee, Republicans like Carson but he’s the #1 choice of few. While he turned in a decent performance, a surge in the polls won’t be forthcoming. Grade: B-
Rand Paul Trump said it best: “You’re having a hard time tonight.” And he did have a hard time. His opening statement ended with “I’m a different kind of Republican.” First of all – show, don’t tell. Second, different kind of Republicans don’t vote in primaries. Grade: D
Chris Christie Christie tangled with Paul in one memorable exchange. They both lost. Other than that, Christie actually did a good job, but he’s in danger of being relegated to the kid’s table for the next debate. ‘Good’ is no longer good enough. He needs to be perfect. Grade: C
John Kasich Kasich was one of the winners of the debate, but only because it increased his name recognition. Beyond that, though, I fail to see how he’s going to appeal to the primary electorate by being the most moderate guy in the room. That might thrill the media but it’s not going to excite conservatives. Grade: B+
Additional thoughts: Carly Fiorina is going to vault herself into the top tier. (See this tweet from our state’s own Public Policy Polling.) Also, if Donald Trump survives this thing with Megyn Kelly, establishment Republicans need to seriously start preparing for the possibility of Trump as their nominee.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.