(Providence, Rhode Island) – The Republican candidates for President of the United States held their first televised debate Thursday night, and it was quite informative and entertaining. There were many memorable lines and moments, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“Class Warfare” – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) had some good jabs in the debate, including at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who - together with husband and ex-President Bill - made tens of millions of dollars since leaving the White House (despite earlier claims that they were practically broke in 2001). Rubio said: “If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck.” Rubio was the son of poor Cuban immigrants in Miami.
“Left, Right; Left, Right” – Some lines were loved and hated at the same time. Conservatives praised former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) when he criticized allowing transgender troops into the armed forces; liberals widely condemned him. “The military is not a social experiment,” Huckabee said. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things,” he added. Like him or not, Huckabee probably had the most candid and provocative zingers of the night.
“Smack Down, Times Two!” – It felt as if they almost came to blows when Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) went on the counterattack against Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). “Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” said Christie. The New Jersey Governor was responding to Paul’s opposition to national security policies which collect information on Americans. Paul shot back at Christie saying, “I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.” Ouch! Earlier Paul and Trump had a similar verbal battle.
“If I Only Had a Brain” – Doctor Ben Carson, who has never held any office, had one of the best lines of the night about the professional political class, as he differentiated himself from the other candidates: “I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins; the only one to operate on babies while they are still in their mother’s womb; and the only one to take out half of a brain, although you would think if you go to Washington that someone had beat me to it,” said brain surgeon Carson. Funny – and sadly – a ring of truth!
“Scary, and Probably True” -- Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), took one of the sharpest jabs at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He said members of the Russian and Chinese governments “know more about Hillary’s emails than the U.S. Congress.” It was Walker’s best line of the night in a debate where he just faded into the background.
“Moving On” – “We’ll accept it,” Governor John Kasich (R-OH) said of the same-sex marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Count. Kasich supported a ban on same-gender weddings in Ohio. “And guess what?” he added, “I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them and love them.”
“Candid Camera” – Donald Trump admitted to donating to almost every other Republican on the debate stage – and even to Democrats – and that he expected political favors in return. “To Hillary Clinton, I said 'Be at my wedding,' and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice. I gave to a foundation that - frankly, that foundation is supposed to be used for good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets all over the world.”
“Line of the Night!” – In his closing remarks, former Governor Mike Huckabee lamented about all the attention on another candidate and said, “We’ve been talking about a person high in polls, but doesn’t know how to lead. A person who has scandals…” (There was a long pregnant pause, and everyone assumed he was going to say 'Donald Trump'). Instead, he said, “I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.” The line brought down the house! His timing was perfect! You could even hear Trump shout, “Thank you!” It was classic!
“Who Won?” – I think there were four big winners. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Governor Huckabee (R-AR) certainly cemented their conservative credentials. This is, after all, a fight to win the Republican base. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was certainly the most combative of the candidates with his dust-ups with Donald Trump and Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). Governor John Kasich came across as the most competent and qualified person on the stage.
“Who Lost?” – Donald Trump – in my opinion – came off as petulant, not Presidential. And he made a serious rookie political mistake by attacking moderator Megyn Kelly. It never works in politics to “shoot the messenger.” It always backfires. I say this as a critique of his debate tactics, not as a critique of his political positions. Three non-scientific polls taken after the debate all had Trump still polling well ahead of the pack.
“Playing it Safe!” – Aside from Trump, who still leads most polls, former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) are the two highest-polling candidates. Perhaps that’s why both men gave such boring, lackluster debate performances. In politics – as in medicine – the motto, “First Do No Harm,” is probably the rule. Bush and Walker played it pretty safe, but sooner or later they have to create some fireworks.
“Carly, Who?” – As I predicted, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the breakout candidate in the “second-tier” debate featuring the lowest polling seven candidates. Fiorina blistered Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and won her debate hands-down. She’ll be on the main stage in the next debate, perhaps displacing Dr. Ben Carson.
Who do you think won? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
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