First GOP Debate Roundup
Each election cycle, the Czar watches the debates so you don’t have to. Well, to be honest, last night’s first Republican candidate debate happened to be inconveniently scheduled on a night that we were busy getting tuxedos for the boys, and family weddings trump everything (even Donald), so the Czar missed the first 30 minutes of the debate last night, so you didn’t have to. And, per tradition here at the Castle, the Czar will write up his thoughts on the whole thing.
First and foremost, the Czar thought this was the most entertaining debate since the Carter-Reagan debate of 1980. Mind you, this was in terms of sheer watchability: the time flew in this debate, and every candidate’s time (for the most part) was used well with information, humor, and sometimes gut emotion. Unlike the debates of 2012 and 2008, which often droned on about fiscal this or diplomatic that, the candidates all took the tone that enough is enough, America is mad as hell, and it’s time to throw out this hippie progressive crap. Liberalism is a tested and re-tested failure: America doesn’t need to grow up or get serious, but it does need to start thinking that tomorrow ought to be better than today.
Second, Fox did a superb job. There were no squishy Coke-versus-Pepsi questions or what’s-on-your-iPod excrement. Trump was asked about his long-time support for Democrats. Rubio was asked about his flip on immigration. Walker was asked about his failed promise to meet Wisconsin job creation pledges. And so on: the questions were even painful to some of the candidates, and indeed they should have been. And you know, overall, their respective answers weren’t that bad.
On to the candidates:
Gov. Chris Christie Christie played up his big, tough Jersey guy act a bit too much. By now you’ve heard about his blow out with Sen. Rand Paul regarding homeland security. Although the Czar sympathized with Christie’s positionthere’s a huge difference in accountability between an executive and a junior senatorthe reality is that Christie hurt himself and Rand Paul by treating Sen. Paul like some heckler in the crowd. Overall, Christie did a reasonable job assuring folks that he really does hold conservative views in a decidedly anti-conservative state.
Sen. Marco Rubio Rubio came on strong when he announced his candidacy, even stealing most of Hillary Clinton’s thunder. But he’s lagged a lot in the polls lately, and his debate performance should, by right, reverse that. He was strong, confident, and polished. He spoke with a clear optimism and definitely will appeal to the millions of Millennials disenfranchised by the Democrats. He is however a Senator, and that annoys the Czar, who finds senators poor presidents overall: good presidents are executives, not speech-makers. As a vice-presidential candidate, though, Rubio would be a masterpiece. However, as he proved last night by comparing his life to Hillary Clinton’s, he would annihilate Clinton in a one-on-one debate.
Dr. Ben Carson The Царица said she knew the least about Dr. Carson of all the candidates, and the Czar agrees with her analysis: he’s a genius with a hypnotic and charming speaking style, who really does understand how liberals think and what conservatives can do to fix that. But yes, he lacks political experience and would probably be manipulated by men and women of ambition working with him. Yet he generates warmth, effortless amiability, and optimism and came out of these debates looking very sharp and three-dimensional. He could serve in a number of cabinet positions, and damned well ought to. Then, maybe, a presidential run for real.
Gov. Scott Walker The Wisconsin warrior came in and left at the same level of support, which is good. Walker’s first national appearance looked quite coached: stick to the topic, don’t get dinged by the too-long timer, go with simplistic A-B-C bullet list answers, and push your foreign policy knowledge. This he did well. And it was a great move by Walker to continually tie Hillary Clinton’s name to every Barack Obama foreign policy disaster. Too bad the other candidates didn’t: they still seem to be running against Obama, not Clinton. Should Walker have lit up a little bit? Maybebut he’s clearly pacing himself, which is critical for a marathon presidential run. Santorum, Bachmann, and Huckabee went full-throttle in their first debate in 2012, and were quickly out of the running. Walker seems to have learned to take it easy and don’t look like an ass. The Czar suspects a lot of his followers were disappointed in his quiet, polite delivery, but trust usit was a smart strategic move.
Rev. Donald Trump The good news is that Trump wasn’t as bad as he could have been. The bad news is that what was left still disqualifies him as a serious entry. Look, by now everybody should know that he’s a Clinton plant, a gag candidate run to embarrass Republicans. Fox peppered him on this, as well as his liberal lifestyle, and his answers ranged from pretty good (comparing his recent love of firearms and rejection of abortion to Ronald Reagan’s famous change of heart) to disastrous (he admitted to basically bribing Nancy Pelosi for favors). Audience focus groups universally agreed that Trump failed last night, but come onyou didn’t really think he would do well, did you? You did? Wow. Well, you wouldn’t be alone, seeing how the hurricane of cheers slowly turned into a mash of scattered applause and boos as the debate went on.
Gov. ¡Jeb! Bush Probably the big loser of the debate. Bush had every opportunity to distinguish himself as the big boss, the king, the master. But he left looking like a shadow of his dad, more interested in getting back to the country club and trying one of those new martinis. Rather than bust out of the box, and prove he’s 180° from his brother, he wound up looking like an accountant trying stand-up comedy on the weekend. Look, the Czar thinks Jeb Bush would be a good president, and isn’t as bad as the Twitter libertarians insist he must be, but his debate style last night made us wish Carly Fiorina or Rick Perry was up there instead of him. Jeb Bush has the most complicated and lengthy way of saying maybe to tough questions. And he blew the Common Core question by never answering it, but in a way he did: he never rejected the idea of federal control over primary education, which was a telling mistake.
Gov. Mike H♥ckabee The Czar thinks that Gov. Huckabee is running the exact same campaign he’s run a couple times now: auditioning for a talk show. The Czar has a simple rule: never vote for a man who is desperate to become president. Sure, Huckabee had some great lines. Yes, he made some good points. Of course, he was right on a lot of what he said. But you could put Rush Limbaugh up there or Glenn Beck and get the same results. Huckabee would be an okay presidentbetter than we’ve seen since maybe 1990but he’s an entertainer, a performer. His lines were all tested and extensively re-written. He’s a showman, a tent preacher, who makes his point and then gets his guests to agree. That’s not presidential, and the Czar suspects if Fox offered him a prime time show, he’d drop out of the campaign to take it. Let’s hope that happens.
Sen. Ted Cruz Sen. Cruz is probably a name that most Americans know, but that’s about it: they don’t know what he believes, looks like, or sounds like. Fortunately, Cruz should have fixed all three last night with a very strong, heartfelt performance. He did seem to emphasize that he agrees with his opponents on a whole lot of everythingmaybe a bit too forced in that regardbut he clearly was trying to quell his growing persona as a gadfly. This is especially true after last week’s ill-timed attack on Sen. McConnell, which didn’t help Cruz in the slightest. But he came off as Dr. J. here has always predicted: when you listen to him, you realize he’s a really nice guy, with a strong set of good beliefs, who comes from a background of serious struggle and achievement. In fact,the best part for his campaignhe left most viewers wondering what all the negative buzz is about. Having said that, the Czar maintains that Cruz is making a mistake by running for president: he should be in the Senate, driving conservative causes right to the top. He’d make a legendary Senate majority leader, and the Senate needs that more than anything, given the last few decades of duds we’ve had.
Sen. Rand Paul Sen. Paul has succeeded in distinguishing himself from his father at long last, and he has even established himself as his own personality. Everyone now knows him as the guy who filibustered about drones and the NSA. But he should have turned off his iconoclast attitude and tried to be more appealing to voters who know him for nothing else. No, Rand Paul is not a Reagan conservative: he’s a Goldwater wannabe. And his tussle with Gov. Christie (see above) made him look like a shrill whiner. Yes, of course the NSA should have warrants, but he refused to acknowledge (much less incorporate) Gov. Christie’s criticisms as valid concerns when he could have easily done so. Sen. Paul needs serious work on his presentation, and while the Czar knows that Sen. Paul has lots of supporters who read this site, he just came off as looking unready. The Czar is not sure what job makes sense for Sen. Paul: not president, not vice-president, not cabinet, and not Senate leadership. Paul needs to find something real to present, rather than be the guy who Hate the GOP Establishment. There really is such a Rand Paul, and he’s in there somewhere: but he’s got to stop throwing punches at everyone who can help him.
Gov. John Kasich Okay, so imagine Wrigley Field gets the All-Star game. And assume that the Cubs are having a year like they often do, where the only Cub who gets in is the mandatory one-team-member-from-every-team guy. The Cub fans are going to applaud no matter what. And that, friends, is Gov. Kasich. He said nothing especially memorable or distinctive than the others, and his record as Ohio governorwhile very goodisn’t particularly door-blowing. He’s okay, and in a debate with such good candidates, that isn’t good enough. It’s sad, once again, that candidates like Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry are excluded from the debates because the hometown favorite got just enough recognition to sneak in. Kasich is a decent enough governor, but he’s another old, white, rich guy with a history of nodding to liberal interests. He’s completely unnecessary in this race.
So the Czar’s final uptake? It would be better to see real candidates with real ideas up there introducing themselves to America. This means that Gov. Huckabee and Gov. Kasich should go quietly. Make room for people who can impress.
Trump shouldn’t be up there at all, any more than if Bill Gates suddenly announced he was a Republican after a phone call from Bill Clinton. Maybemaybereplace him with the common sense analysis of Rick Santorum (and this better be his last try for the Presidency as well).
Bush will still be around, due purely to momentum, but is like Christie and Paul: you need to do a lot more work to come off as the guy to win votes.
Cruz, Walker and Carson looked okay and probably will see an uptick in the polls as Americans will recognize them. Watch for these three to get bolder in the next debate and start to rise up. Rubio looked great and needs to keep doing what he’s doing.
As with most political analysis pieces, the Czar will follow convention and ask what are your thoughts? Whom did you like? Whom did you dislike? Although, don’t write in because the Czar doesn’t care what you think.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.