This debate was the first of the race for the White House and it offered us a glimpse into the GOP’s finest candidates. The Republicans are yet to modernise on ideas such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some controversial statements on the latter did no favours for Florida senator Marco Rubio who said he believed abortion should be illegal in all cases (including in the case of rape and incest) something he previously did not support.
Despite this hiccup, Marco Rubio did seem to fair the best out of the other candidates. He looked the part and commanded the debate in a very presidential fashion leading to high kudos from many political commentators in Washington. The fear was that Rubio may appear to be out of his depth due to his relative inexperience compared to seasoned Republican politicians such as Ohio governor John Kasich and Florida governor Jeb Bush. But I would say that he won the debate and most agree.
Frontrunner Jeb Bush seemed to be pretty muted in this debate but his name recognition will likely serve him well come the primaries. He seemed very presidential too and I would go as far as saying that a Bush and Rubio ticket is highly likely, considering both are from Florida and would offer a diverse ticket in terms of age and background; Bush being the epitome of the older WASP from a dynastic family and Rubio being a youthful Cuban-American from a comparatively poor family. However, constitutional restrictions would make it hard for two Floridians to be on the same ticket without one of them changing their residency à la Dick Cheney. I expect Bush will feature more prominently in the coming debates and the good thing about his lack of input is that there was little room for any errors, excluding the inevitable question on the Iraq War.
Chris Christie and Rand Paul provided the only heated exchange of the debate, clashing over the PATRIOT Act. New Jersey governor Chris Christie referenced 9/11 multiple times when explaining his support of the PATRIOT Act, which allows the U.S. government to spy on citizens considered to be a threat to national security, casting Paul as not as patriotic and earning applause from the audience. Paul rebuked stating his disdain for the PATRIOT Act and alluded to Christie’s bipartisanship and friendship with President Barack Obama during Hurricane Sandy.
Unfortunately Donald Trump was not as outrageously provocative as I hoped. Apart from claiming that Fox News moderator and American conservatives’ sweetheart Megyn Kelly’s criticism of Trump was due to menstruating, calling Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig, saying how he funded some of the candidates on the stage and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in return for favours, and reminding everyone how successful he was, Trump was relatively tame. The time Trump did speak though did no favours for the GOP who are trying desperately to win the women vote. His comments to Kelly and general misogyny only further reinforce the image of the GOP polarising women. However, the other pro-life candidates do little to help the GOP when it comes to women. Nothing helps the Republicans win over women voters than fielding 17 candidates who want to tell women what they can do with their bodies in the name of a religion that those who feel the consequences of pro-life legislation may not follow.
The other five candidates had few interesting moments. Ohio governor John Kasich was warmly received by the Cleveland, Ohio crowd and he seemed a relatively sane candidate. In contrast Texas senator Ted Cruz espoused his pro-life views and made a number of references to his faith. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker put in a solid performance but did little of note and seemed quite reasonable despite being cast an extremist in the media. Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson may as well not have been there, with only Carson telling surgery jokes and Huckabee babbling something about how Washington is doing things wrong without offering any viable solutions.
Overall, this debate was nothing special. It will not be a landmark in the campaign and more important debates will certainly come up. I have been hearing that Carly Fiorina did well in the debate that took place before the ten frontrunners took the stage and I would not be surprised to see her do well as the campaign progresses.