Posted: 08/07/15 18:54
by Dave Mindeman
Yesterday's GOP debate had its moments, but if the GOP wants to take the ideas expressed there into a general election, they are going to lose.
The ideas on immigration, the assault on Planned Parenthood, the clear support for more troops on the ground in the Middle East....it was all a bunch of pandering to the extremes in the GOP. And it will put the eventual nominee in a general election hole.
But as for the individual candidates, it is hard to fathom winners and losers. Donald Trump got questions that were personal. I doubt his answers will hurt him any - he seems impervious to that. But it does look like the Fox network has decided to get tougher on "The Donald".
There was also a lot of talk about Carly Fiorina emerging from the early debate as having such a strong debate performance. I didn't see anything unusual, except maybe for more pointed attacks on Hillary Clinton. Of course, that would please the conservative talk show circuit, so maybe that is what the buzz is all about. The praise was mostly manufactured, but that might be enough to give her a bump. I'm still confused about what her actual credentials would be - she lost a California Senate seat run by a large margin and as the CEO of Hewlett Packard, she ran the company into the ground and got herself fired.
Mike Huckabee was doubling down on his extremist rhetoric. He clearly wants to defy the Supreme Court and undo the social construct of the country. I can't believe that he is presidential material.
John Kasich is still the most reasonable Republican on the stage...which is probably a low bar, but he stands out on policy positions. And he shows a willingness to compromise on legislative positions that will never happen with the others.
Scott Walker didn't exactly stand out. He got a few one liners in, but if you look at the actual time speaking on stage, Walker was actually near the bottom. He still uses his confrontation with unions as a badge of honor, while stating that he can get things done at the same time. And I have yet to see his convoluted statements about his horrible record in Wisconsin being challenged....and they should be challenged.
Ben Carson is a mystery to me. He offers a lot of conservative tag lines but is really weak on actual policy....completely useless on foreign policy. Yet he seems to continue with a stable polling number. What does he have to offer? I really wonder about that.
Chris Christie tried to stay relevant. His argument with Rand Paul on public surveillance was probably a draw...and probably didn't help either of them much. Christie is another governor with a horrible state record to stand on, but, like Walker, he keeps trying to spin it. The bluster was lost in the shuffle.
Rand Paul was the most combative of the group. He took on Trump and Christie, but he came off more as an angry crank, than a statesman. He does stand out as the only candidate that opposes foreign intervention. That message may not work in today's GOP.
Jeb Bush didn't seem like much a front runner candidate. He was tentative, seemed unsure of himself, and didn't stand out at all. He looks like a candidate hoping to tread water.
Marco Rubio got some buzz for his performance. To me, he seems almost plastic. He is articulate but doesn't really say anything. He has an immigrant message and talks of the American Dream, but opposes giving that same opportunity to others. He is careful to the point of pandering.
And then there is Ted Cruz. I can't look at or hear Ted Cruz without thinking about Joe McCarthy. He looks like him and sounds like him. Cruz is the ultimate flamethrower and loves the heat. Nothing about his debate performance is going to alter perceptions about him. He needed more.
The debate gets a lot of attention but this is only the beginning. There are still too many candidates to make any assumptions. And the threat of Trump going to an independent candidacy looms large over the GOP right now. If Trump is looking at how the GOP treats him as an excuse to make the big run, he certainly got ammunition at the debate.
The next series of polls will be interesting to watch.