Well, another Republican presidential debate means another circus has come and gone; a stark contrast from the adult debate many of us watched just a couple of weeks ago. As I expected, tonight was more of the same of what we’ve seen during the first two GOP debates. Tonight was especially pivotal with Donald Trump slipping behind Ben Carson in some polls; Jeb Bush’s campaign teetering on a full-on collapse; Carly Fiorina desperate to reclaim the momentum she found following the second debate; and several other candidates grasping at straws to continue to justify why they’re still even in this race.
This third GOP debate was setup to be a mess from the very beginning when, a little over a week back, both Trump and Carson threatened to boycott the event unless CNBC agreed to their demands that the debate not last more than two hours. It made sense considering longer debates tend to lean more toward substance and neither candidate seems to be versed in anything other than spouting off ridiculous talking points based almost entirely on fiction.
If only one thing is taken from the third GOP presidential debate it will be this: Republicans spent much of the night playing to their friendly audience and whining about bias in the media.
Sure, a couple of the questions were bad. In any debate there are always going to be bad questions. I’ll even admit a couple bordered on ridiculous. If you want to address those issues, do it after the debate. Don’t grandstand trying to score political points and cheap applause by bashing the media.
But when Ted Cruz whined about how Democrats were coddled during their debate, I couldn’t help but wonder what debate he was watching. The first two questions during that debate targeted Hillary Clinton on Benghazi and Bernie Sanders on socialism. Anderson Cooper didn’t pull any punches at all. The biggest difference was, the Democratic candidates spoke about the issues instead of spending half the night bashing one another like children.
But the theme tonight was essentially whenever one of the CNBC moderators called out a candidate for either lying, having a plan that doesn’t make sense or pointing out a ridiculous statement they’ve made prior to the debate – avoid answering, claim media bias and rant about something else.
When they called out Carson’s 10 percent flat tax, he denied saying that was his plan. He’s full of crap; that’s exactly what he said during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. He then went on to say he wants all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be treated fairly in this country. Meanwhile, he once said that he gets “irritated” when he sees gay Americans claiming they deserve civil rights. Essentially what Carson does is he says something, then when he’s called out on it later he denies saying it, claims that’s propaganda and says something else.
Hell, Trump denied saying a quote about Marco Rubio that came directly from his own website.
This debate was easily one of the most difficult to watch. Again, not because it was a bigger circus than the first two, but because there’s simply too many candidates on stage. Like the first two, the candidates complained about both the time they were given and the questions they were being asked, and they frequently refused to answer the questions. Half the time they’d give a 5 second excuse for an “answer” and then rant for 60 seconds about something entirely unrelated.
I will say that CNBC’s moderators did a much better job of calling out each candidate’s plans, comments and blatant lies. That’s why so many of these candidates whined about the questions they were asked or the responses from the moderators. It’s also why the audience brought out the boos early on – because the truth is ugly and inconvenient to hear.
If I had to pick a “winner” I would say Carson simply because he stayed the course. His star is on the rise and he didn’t particularly do anything that’s going to cause conservative voters to turn against him. Even if his tax plan did get called out – I’m sure that won’t matter to most Republicans watching.
Rubio and Cruz will also rise in the eyes of conservatives, but I wouldn’t say either were run-away winners at all. They had their moments, but they didn’t say anything that they hadn’t said in previous debates.
If I had to pick the losers, I would say Trump and Bush. When it comes to Trump, it’s the same rhetoric he’s been using for months. I think his shtick is wearing off and with each debate it seems like his campaign is simply running out of steam.
As for Bush, he was the clear overall loser and I think it’s over for the former Florida governor. He’s just not a very good candidate. When he answers questions he seems unsure of what he’s saying and almost disgusted that more people aren’t taking him seriously. Unless something major happens over the next few weeks (possibly sooner), I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drop out.
As for the rest of the candidates, I don’t look for any of them to make any major moves up or down. Maybe a percentage point here or there, but that’s it.
But what this debate ultimately did was prove once again how out of touch the Republican party has become. This is a group of people who seem more concerned with becoming the darling of the conservative media than actually offering rational plans to help most Americans. It was just another debate filled with petty attacks, worn out rhetoric and many of the same failed recycled ideas Republicans have been pushing for the last 30+ years, and they should be ashamed if they truly consider themselves “deadly serious” candidates.