Wednesday, Oct. 28th, CNBC hosted the Republican Party’s third televised debate featuring the top-10 polling Republican candidates running for President. Moderating the debate were CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick, and John Harwood.
As in my previous debate reviews, I list the candidates in order of their performance best to worst, including highlights and strong impressions.
Cruz singlehandedly changed the tone of the entire debate. After the moderators offered up a series of biased, derogatory, and divisive questions of the candidates Ted Cruz called out the moderators for their shameful Leftist agenda. It was an alley-oop SLAM DUNK for Cruz, assist by Marco Rubio. After Cruz’s slam dunk, the candidates stopped attacking each other and united against the moderators. The nominees themselves set the tone of the debate thereafter. It was amazing to watch. Additionally, Ted Cruz spoke more boldly and broadly than in his previous debates. He also had an unusually warm moment you might expect from the likes of Ben Carson; Cruz admitted he might not be the guy you’d share a beer with, but if you needed someone to drive you home he was your man. It was a very strong metaphor that lingers in my heart. And as always Cruz was intelligent, prepared, and presidential. Big night for Cruz.
- Marco Rubio
Rubio’s strengths are in full force. He was prepared, quick, articulate, and unafraid. He was a scrapper. Rubio was the first to call out the moderators for their lies and biases. Rubio was pounded relentlessly by Becky Quick. And defended himself against a cheap shot from Jeb Bush. But Rubio’s counter-punch to Jeb was so quick and effective I dare say Rubio struck the final blow to Jeb’s failing campaign. Rubio had a great night. However, he needs to slow down how fast he talks. The faster he talks the more he sounds scripted like a career politician, i.e. inauthentic. Inauthenticity will bury you in this election cycle. I am not yet convinced Rubio is not too ambitious for his britches. He needs to somehow assure voters he will surround himself with people of age, wisdom, and experience.
- Ben Carson
Carson looks uncomfortable on stage, in debates, doing this political campaign thing, and that is his BIG plus! Carson’s obvious discomfort gives the honest impression he is doing this for the country, not for himself or his “legacy.” Even after 2 debates, his genuine take-me-as-I-am persona is still refreshing. He also has a marvelous way of simplifying complex matters and expressing them without sounding patronizing. What a gift. Good job fielding tough questions. And he did something no candidate ever does: when Rick Santelli of CNBC asked Carson about Carson’s hypocritical stand on corporate subsidies Carson admitted Rick was right, that he—Ben Carson—was wrong. Wow. Unbelievable! That kind of candor and humility is unheard of in politics. I think the reason no one reported it the following day was because the media couldn’t believe their ears; like it was an audio anomaly or something. No big moments like the first debate, but Ben will maintain his growing support with this performance.
- Chris Christie
Christie has his moments, and he had several important ones that evening—moments that are rightfully receiving media attention and praise. One particular moment called out the moderators for pressing an irrelevant question about Fantasy Football while the world is burning around us. Good job, Christie! He also did a great job reminding everyone Hillary is the greater threat, not one another. Cleverly referred to President Obama’s Criminal Justice Department as the “Political Justice Department.” On the downside, Christie has got to stop bursting onto the debate floor with pre-planned populist rants. It’s getting old. And better stop soon. Unless he can’t control himself. I suspect he can’t; which is why I think his poll numbers do not reflect the popularity of his debate performances.
- Carly Fiorina
Fiorina was well prepared again to address questions regarding her job performance as CEO for Hewlett-Packard. Despite Becky Quick’s ugly follow-up questions, Fiorina again knocked it out of the park. When are moderators going to learn Fiorina is prepared for these questions? Fiorina did a good job responding to all questions as well as informing listeners about problems facing us today. On the downside, it’s a little hard to swallow Fiorina’s antipathy for “the wealthy and the well-connected” considering she is reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars. No big shining moments. This debate was not bad for Fiorina, but considering her stellar performances previously, and she had the most debate time of all the candidates she should have scored higher. What has she been doing since the last debate? She disappeared.
- Donald Trump
A tame performance, yet improves on my rating scale. He didn’t get many questions. Trump was not cast as the star of this show. And it showed. Nevertheless, this entire cast of Republican candidates owe a great debt to Trump for his bombastic non-politically correct style. (I guarantee Ted Cruz would not have found the courage to attack the media that evening had it not been for Trump’s courageous lead these past months.) Trump does not play nice; he plays to win. Republicans take note!
- Mike Huckabee
Solid, simple, positive message. Strong appeal to older voters via promises to protect Social Security and Medicare. (Sadly, Huckabee is not honest with seniors on this issue. Social Security and Medicare are insolvent and will soon implode under the weight of empty political promises.) Additionally, I might suggest Huckabee tone down the folksy storytelling a piece, and start spinning specific, substantive, creative, thoughtful solutions. Overall, not a bad performance, but his schtick is getting old.
- Rand Paul
Paul was given few questions and little time. Nevertheless he was confident and informative. Becky Quick tried pulling Rand under the bus with a snide and unnecessary comment suggesting Paul didn’t pay attention to the debate rules. In an effort to join the chorus government is broken, Paul blamed our grandparents for the insolvency of Social Security; which is true in part, but did nothing to support the Constitutional principles on which he stands. If Paul continues to improve in the debates he has a chance of improving in the polls.
- John Kasich
I’m tired of hearing Kasich rattle on about his “successes” in Ohio. Is he running for President of Ohio? Does anyone really believe this man is anything but a career politician? He has held elected office for 26 years, going back to 1979. His debate performance was fine—for a career politician.
- Jeb Bush
Does Jeb really want the job of President? I’m beginning to wonder. Lack luster debate performance. Considering his family’s vast years of experience in politics, presidential campaigning, political connections, personal wealth, and his hefty donor base, you got to wonder why the wheels are falling off Jeb’s campaign. Rubio countered Jeb’s jab at Rubio’s voting record, then Rubio quickly countered with a hook that shattered Jeb’s glass jaw. Jeb’s campaign is lingering on the mat.
For all the snide, sneering, sarcastic, and pre-meditated character assassination questions posed by the three biased moderators, I want to offer a special nod to guess-moderator Rick Santelli of CNBC. For those of you who may not know, Rick is credited as the grandfather of the Tea Party movement. Kudos to Rick for raising sober questions in this debate about the Federal Reserve Bank.