Takeaways from the Second GOP Debate

By Sammy Smith

Last Wednesday night’s CNN Republican Presidential Debate provided several memorable moments. Viewers saw plenty of Trump insults, insults towards Trump, and Jeb Bush even admitted to smoking weed in high school.

Hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California, candidates debated issues such as Hillary Clinton, foreign policy, and the tax code. Here are my winners, losers, and biggest takeaways from Wednesday night’s debate.


Carly Fiorina

Ladies and gentlemen, now introducing Mrs. Carly Fiorina! The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was the clear winner of Wednesday night’s debate. From the early moments, Fiorina took on Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s criticism of her appearance, saying, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Throughout the debate, Fiorina took strong, policy oriented stands on conservative talking points like the Planned Parenthood controversy, Russia and Vladimir Putin, and the Iran nuclear deal. She even took a couple of shots at the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. After her performance, expect Fiorina to rise in the polls.

Jeb Bush

Much like his campaign so far, the former Florida governor came out of the gate very flat. However, Bush picked up the slack by dominating the second half of the debate. The normally mild-mannered Bush, received thunderous applause when defending the presidency of his brother, George W. Bush. In addition to the defense of his brother and father, Jeb assured Republican voters that he is his own man.

Governor Bush, known for his rivalry with Donald Trump, stood toe-to-toe with the front-runner on many different occasions during the course of the debate. Bush also did a fair job defending his governorship. However, his biggest victory was the energy conservatives have been longing to see from him since he launched his campaign. His performance may not pay off immediately, but if Trump fades late, we may see Jeb rise in the polls.

Chris Christie

The governor of New Jersey and the former United States Attorney, Chris Christie, desperately needed a good night in order to stay afloat in this race. A recent CBS News and New York Times poll shows Christie registering at just 1%.

However, Christie answered the bell as he viciously defended his record as a governor in a liberal state. Governor Christie bragged about defunding Planned Parenthood, reducing taxes, vetoing several hundred bills, and even promised to “prosecute” Hillary Clinton on the debate stage. Even with his strong showing, Christie still may not have done enough to convince conservative voters to vote for him. Only time will tell.

Marco Rubio

Wednesday night marked the second strong debate showing for Marco Rubio. The Florida senator attacked Donald Trump on his foreign policy knowledge and outlined specifics of his own foreign policy plan. Even with questions that were not necessarily directed towards him, Rubio seemed to interject himself in the conversation. With eleven people on stage, that was very important for him.

Rubio began to falter down the stretch, especially when he was attacked about his congressional voting record. But the senator did just enough to separate himself from the rest of the field.


Donald Trump

It is hard being on top, and Donald Trump definitely found that out Wednesday night. The brash statements made by Trump during the course of his campaign finally came back to bite him. With questions from CNN moderator Jake Tapper that did not really help his cause, Trump found himself on the receiving end of criticism from nearly every Republican candidate on stage. Losing exchanges to Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and even Marco Rubio, Trump almost immediately reverted to insults even after telling CBN that he would tone it down.

Also, Trump failed to provide specific policy positions. When asked about America’s relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump simply said, “I would talk to him. I would get along with him.” The Donald was much stronger on tax policies, but advocated for a much more liberal progressive tax which may turn off some fiscally conservative voters.

Trump didn’t seem as if he was ready for the onslaught coming his way. Nothing he says can make his base stray away from him, but his lack of specifics and his braggadocios tendencies could lead to more undecided voters leaving the Trump ticket. Expect him to fall a little in the polls but still remain the front-runner.

Scott Walker

Walker came out swinging early, attacking Donald Trump saying, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We already have one.” However, after that, Walker faded.

According to NPR, Wisconsin’s governor had the least amount of speaking time at 8 minutes and 29 seconds, and as we all know, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”

At times Walker completely disappeared from the debate stage, and he did not provide any memorable moments. Once viewed as a contender, Walker’s poll numbers have been falling quickly, and he definitely didn’t help himself.

Republican Voters

First of all, the length of the debate (3 HOURS!!) made it difficult to watch sometimes. Conservative voters watched moderators ask several questions about Donald Trump’s comments and not enough about the policies that will affect everyday Americans. Jake Tapper even threw in questions like, “What would your Secret Service codename be?”

This debate got a little carried away with personal attacks. The constant back and forth between candidates got a little tiring. At one point, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump argued for about fairly long period time about their respective careers.

Whether it was Trump throwing insults at other candidates, candidates hurling insults at Trump, or everyone attacking Hillary Clinton and President Obama, voters got little specifics about policy positions.

Biggest Takeaways:

Wednesday night’s debate showed that Donald Trump is not invincible. When presented with questions about foreign policy, Trump can be clueless. Never providing specifics, Trump relied on his bravado to communicate his points, and that ultimately failed him.

It also proved that the political outsiders are on the rise. Carly Fiorina’s performance will certainly have her on the rise in the polls, joining fellow outsiders, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, at the top of many polls.

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