The Fox Business Channel GOP Presidential Debate – the 6th Debate thus far – is over, and it was the most contentious, explosive debate thus far.
There were multiple back-and-forths during the debate. Cruz vs. Trump, Rubio vs. Cruz, Christie vs. Rubio.
Here is how I would rank the candidates:
1. Donald Trump – He came into this debate the front-runner, and he did nothing to lose that position. Trump was very strong. He probably had the moment of the night when he destroyed Ted Cruz’s “New York Values” attack against Trump. Cruz leveled the attack, and Trump very soberly lowered his voice and talked about how New York came back from the 9/11 Attacks and really stood up for all Americans in the face of the evil we all saw on September 11. Cruz actually stood there with a silly grin on his face just after Trump had spoken of the “smell of death” that lingered for days in New York. That moment was decisive, in my view, for Trump in this debate.
Trump was also very strong in talking about China and the need for a level playing field when it comes to Trade. That will resonate across party lines for Trump. This is where Trump can actually cross over into Union and Blue-collar workers and bring votes into the Republican column that won’t otherwise be there. I would say this was Donald Trump’s best debate so far. He’s not eloquent, but he is authentic. He comes across as speaking from the heart.
2. Ted Cruz – With the exception of his loss to Trump on the “New York Values” attack, this was a strong night for Ted Cruz. He is always articulate, and was very much so tonight. I think Cruz just destroyed Marco Rubio when he reminded everyone that Rubio was out there with Chuck Schumer sponsoring the Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill. Rubio keeps trying to claim he is more conservative than Ted Cruz, but it is simply not going to work with Conservatives.
3. Marco Rubio – Rubio had some great moments in the debate. His defense of the 2nd Amendment was outstanding, and his summary of the disaster that is the Obama Presidency was great. Rubio is very good at memorizing 30-second and one-minute mini-speeches. I can tell that’s what he is doing and it comes across that way to me. It seems many people don’t get that. But it is quite effective to most people, it seems. I think where Rubio is very vulnerable is that he is not consistent, as he claims. He’s been all over the place on immigration and seems to believe if he says it often enough, loud enough that he is Mr. Conservative, people will believe it. I don’t think it is going to fly in the end. NOTE: Don’t get me wrong., he’s good, very good and could possibly surprise people in the end
4. Chris Christie – Christie had some good moments, but he did not have the breakout night he needed. He got in several put-downs on Rubio, but he came across as trying too hard to me.
5. Jeb Bush – This was as good a night as Jeb Bush has had. But he just does not connect with people. There is no heart-connection in what he says. That came across once again tonight. I did not see anything from Jeb tonight that will change the trajectory of this race.
6. John Kasich – I thought Kasich had a good night – for him – but it was not enough to change the numbers.
7. Ben Carson – He’s such a good man, but he just looked lost up there. It’s time for Carson to bow out of the race.
Going forward, it’s clear that Trump, Cruz and Rubio are going to remain strong. I don’t see one of the others coming out of nowhere and overtaking them. I believe Cruz or Trump will win Iowa, and Trump will likely win in New Hampshire. But you never know. Christie, Rubio or Kasich could surprise in New Hampshire. It’s going to be amazing to see how this all plays out.