Tonight with dozens of other Georgetown students, I watched the seventh “prime-time” debate for GOP candidates on Fox News. The last debate in Iowa, before the Iowa caucuses open voting on Monday, was viewed from the university’s Healey Family Student Center and proved to be very interesting even from afar.
Determining the winner of the debate is a difficult task, in the face of the entirety of the debate and outstanding factors, I think there were a few winners in separate respects– a few characters emerged from the woodwork.
The line up for the Fox News Debate included seven GOP candidates for the main debate, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Chris Christie, Governor John Kasich and Senator Rand Paul.
The GOP’s current front-runner, Donald Trump, who could be often considered outspoken, dropped out of the debate claiming his desire to not want to be taken advantage of by the network and further insulting anchor Megyn Kelly, with whom Trump has an ongoing rivalry.
Despite the disappointing absence of Trump (for entertainment purposes) the Washington Post provided a solution: WaPo’s very own “Trump quote generator”.
In response to Trump’s absence Cruz thanked Iowans for their hospitality and stated confidence and then mocked Trump by insulting his opponents on stage in a joking way. In my opinion, this was a win for Cruz as he had an opportunity to address an ongoing rivalry and rift between the two men.
Cruz also noted that in his feud against Trump that he refuses to insult Trump and does not want to widen that rift– choosing to discuss the situation diplomatically, which appeared to be a strengthening move.
The Cruz-Trump rivalry was not the only topic of Cruz’s debate tonight though but it did bring him some attention. Cruz had the second highest number of talking minutes before closing statements (12 minutes 35 seconds) within the debate, following Rubio at 13 minutes and 01 second and third was Bush coming out of the debate with 8 minutes 58 seconds. Carson had the lowest number of talking minutes at 4 minutes and 05 seconds– and chose, interestingly, to close with a recitation of the preamble. NPR released a record of how long each candidate spoke.
Within the election, Bush seemed to have the most impactful minutes. Though he questioned why some of society sees him as part of a status quo and referred to Trump as a “little teddy” bear, he did not throw too many jabs.
Bush also responded to the issue of discrimination positively and remarked that blanket discrimination is not an answer and that that is not fair to American Muslims. Bush stated his confidence in his leadership and his record to prove he is capable of taking the Republican Nomination and beating Hillary Clinton– as each candidate asserted was the goal.
Cruz, who held a great deal of the attention during the debate, seemed to fair best in conflict. Many of his shining moments were in regard to his feud with Trump– and at one point, early on, he said “the last four questions have been Rand, please attack Ted, Jeb, please attack Ted,” after which he warned he may have to leave the stage if the debaters and moderators would not stop being so mean to him. His attitude seemed to be a losing point in his performance. However, he made many points about his policies and his special assurance for transparency.
Cruz closed with a reference to his website where his plans are aligned and told the audience to take a look and “pray on it.” He made multiple appeals to Iowa in his reference to his work with their government officials over the last several years. Cruz also referenced Ronald Reagan as his inspiration as he moves forward with his campaign.
The man with the most speaking minutes during the debate, Marco Rubio, had some strong moments as well, he noted his desire to strengthen America in all respects, particularly militarily. However, he was boxed in when Megyn Kelly asked about his position on immigration reforms and how his opinion has changed over the years. Rubio, who has been called a republican savior, made an appeal to religion, as Cruz did, in his statement that Jesus Christ is the only savior.
As an aside, Chris Christie came in at unexpected points to push for fighting principles which seemed often to be on the tail of others’ statements, which did not seem to have a huge impact but was impressive nonetheless.
Within the debate, it seems that Cruz and Bush came out as the top dogs, since each had the opportunity to speak more without the onstage character of Trump to jostle with for talking time. Rubio made an impact but could not get around his own contradiction.
Despite his lack of input on the debate stage, it was apparent that Trump held a very strong presence on the stage. The billionaire won much of the attention in the GOP debate tonight. The debate opened with a question from Megyn Kelly to Ted Cruz about Trump’s absence and his name came up time and time again.
On social media, his decision not to attend was questioned, mocked and commented on by thousands, including large media outlets like the Washington Post, the New York Times, US News & World Report, The Hill, PBS NewsHour– many of which headlined their debate reports with the billionaire’s absence.
Trump’s event for veterans tonight did not gain much attention as a success, and some noted a parallel in the past for front-runners that skipped a debate, such as Reagan when he lost out to George H.W. Bush and wondered if Trump faced the same fate. However, Reagan did not have social media as a tool, Trump does.
In the online world of Twitter and Facebook, Trump was undoubtedly the victor for attention and presence, he made an impact, in spite of his ditching the debate.
While the discussion surrounding Trump continues online, many are using Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” as a joke, clearly, a winning campaign is making that much of an impact, right?
Personally, I cannot wait to see if Saturday Night Live recaps the debate.