There were many storylines heading into this evening’s New Hampshire Republican presidential debate. Following Ted Cruz’s slight upset of Donald Trump in Iowa, Marco Rubio’s surprisingly strong third place finish, and the fact that Trump skipped the last debate, there was plenty of drama surrounding Saturday night’s event.
But beyond the storylines, I honestly expected more of the same. I’ve watched every Republican debate since the first one in August – these things are nothing if not mostly predictable. If I were a Republican, I would be embarrassed that these candidates are the best my party can do.
Tonight might have been the night we saw Trump implode on stage. He basically came out in favor of something that sounded a lot like universal health care and big government having the right to claim private property. When Jeb Bush mentioned the time he tried to use eminent domain to seize an elderly lady’s property, that made the billionaire real estate mogul look incredibly weak. Attacking the audience as “donors” and basically calling them paid shills as they booed him relentlessly didn’t play well on television either. Will it be enough to cost him New Hampshire? We’ll see. But I do look for his support to fall come Tuesday’s primary election. (Sadly, he might have solidified some support when he said he fully supports torture, which is a sad testament to the “values” of the GOP.)
Marco Rubio got creamed tonight. He stammered when Chris Christie pushed him, repeating himself as Christie was calling him out for being too scripted and relying too much on pre-rehearsed talking points. Throughout the evening Rubio continued to repeat himself, frequently using some of the same lines nearly word-for-word, which only validated Christie’s slam on the senator from Florida as someone who’s built on talking points rather than substance. While his performance could have technically been worse, Rubio definitely failed to build on the momentum he gained following his decent finish in Iowa.
Though his most ridiculous moment of the night came when he said Hillary Clinton supports abortions “up to the due date.” Not only is that an absurd lie, that doesn’t even make sense. Who would “abort” a baby on the due date? For sane people, that’s called a delivery.
Ted Cruz was Ted Cruz. While he might snag a couple more states, Cruz has pretty much “peaked.” I didn’t see anything tonight that would make anyone rush to support Cruz, though the fact that he didn’t stand out in any way might cause some of his supporters to vote for another candidate who did.
One of those candidates who did look much stronger was Chris Christie. While I don’t think Christie will win New Hampshire, I look for him to get more of the vote on Tuesday than the five percent that he’s currently polling at. The problem with Christie is that the far-right hates him, and you can’t become the GOP nominee when southern and rural conservatives don’t like you. Though he definitely asserted himself this evening, much to the dismay of Rubio who was clearly his main target.
I’ve said it for months, if Republicans were smart they’d nominate John Kasich. While I wouldn’t vote for him, he’s moderate enough to attract independents and maybe even a few conservative Democrats. Not only that, but he would almost guarantee that the GOP took Ohio, a key swing state, which would help them greatly in November. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t want to see Kasich become our next president, but he’s the Republican candidate who terrifies me the least if he were to take up residence in the White House for four years. That’s probably why he stands no chance at winning the Republican nomination. But in each of these debates he’s the only candidate who, at least on some issues, seems moderately genuine and sane. I’ll go ahead and predict a top four finish for Kasich in New Hampshire.
Jeb Bush also performed decently. He was stronger than I’ve seen him in previous debates, got a few decent shots in on Trump and didn’t have any of the usual gaffes. At this moment, Jeb’s biggest competition is trying to overtake Rubio as the “establishment candidate.” While Rubio had a fairly poor performance tonight, I didn’t see much from Jeb that made me think he’s going to capture many of the voters who might be looking for someone other than the Florida senator to support.
As for Ben Carson, after his rather embarrassing entrance (or lack of one – Google it), he didn’t say or do anything that’s going to save his campaign. He peaked a few months ago and hasn’t done anything since to change the minds of voters who realized months ago that he’s completely unfit and unqualified to be president.
Overall, as expected, this was another disaster. When I watch Democratic debates, 95 percent of what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders say is about the issues. Not only that, but they rarely even mention Republicans. Yet during these GOP debates these candidates spend more time talking about how awful Democrats are, or spouting off talking points meant to make them sound tough, more so than they do boasting about why they should be president or laying out achievable goals to accomplish positive things. It’s classic Republican propaganda. They don’t run on their stances or qualifications as much as they run against whatever ideas Democrats are running on.
Watching these Republican debates, it terrifies me to think that one of these walking nightmares could potentially become our next president. With health care for millions, women’s rights, gay rights, same-sex marriage, and the power of the Supreme Court all on the line, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that every single person on the left get out and vote blue this November. Every Democrat, liberal or progressive who doesn’t back a Democratic candidate is just as good as a vote for the Republican party. Because trust me when I say that the GOP is hoping for a low voter turnout.
As I’ve said before, while it’s nice to run with the hashtags “#ImWithHer” and “#FeeltheBern,” once Democrats select a candidate, those hashtags need to become #VoteBlueNoMatterWho and #Democrats2016.