The Roundup: GOP debate No. 1
By Evan Lips | August 7, 2015, 17:19 EDT
Carly Fiorina shouldn’t have to sit at the “kid’s table” any longer.
In Thursday’s GOP “happy hour debate” – the first of two tiered presidential debates hosted by FOXNews last night – Fiorina, the first woman to lead a top-20 American company (Hewlett-Packard) unloaded on her GOP colleagues.
In response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said about an hour into the first debate, “I will tell you one thing. I would a whole lot rather [have] Carly Fiorina over[seas] doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would’ve gotten a deal where we didn’t give everything away.”
Perry was referring to the recent Iran nuclear deal that the Obama administration recently hammered out with leaders in Tehran. His compliment of Fiorina’s tough debating skills comes at a time when the “bottom” seven Republican candidates (according to polls) are fighting it out for a seat at the “adult’s table.”
The second primetime event featured real estate mogul Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The candidates on the crowded center stage were selected by FOXNews on the basis of recent national poll averages. If voters were paying attention (and the record television ratings suggest they were), the makeup of the current top 10 is likely to change.
Here’s a rundown of what the 10 primetime candidates had to say:
1. Donald Trump — “The Donald” landed the coveted center stage position. The bombastic real estate mogul raised eyebrows (and quite possibly cost himself support) when he said he’d refuse to back the candidate who wins the GOP nomination. He openly indicated he’d run as an independent.
Best line: “Only [about] Rosie O’Donnell,” when asked by FOXNews host Megyn Kelly about his penchant for making chauvinistic statements.
2. Jeb Bush — Dubya’s brother doubled down on his Florida governing record. FOXNews host Brett Baier pressed him to answer the oft-repeated comment that the “last thing America needs is another Bush in the Oval Office.” Bush stuck to his record in Florida and pointed out that under his stewardship the state passed a balanced budget every year.
Best line: “They called me Veto Corleone, because I vetoed 2,500 separate line-items in the [Florida] budget.”
3. Scott Walker — The scourge of every labor union in America faced the abortion question on Thursday when Kelly asked him why he opposes abortion, even when the mother’s health is at risk. Walker proceeded to duck the question and instead insisted that his position on abortion is consistent with that of most Americans.
Best line: “Let’s be clear, we should be talking about Hillary Clinton, because everywhere in the world that Hillary Clinton touched is more messed up today than before.”
4. Mike Huckabee — He’s gone through thick-and-thin (literally and figuratively) when it comes to presidential campaigns. He entered the national discussion during the 2008 presidential campaign season and now he’s back for more. During Thursday’s debate he ripped the current relationship between Wall Street and Washington and repeated his preference for a flat tax system.
Best line: “Ronald Reagan said ‘trust, but verify.’ President Obama is ‘trust, but vilify.’ He trusts our enemies and vilifies everyone who disagrees with him.”
5. Ben Carson — The good doctor continued to prove he is one of the brightest guys in the room. But can he be president without any governing experience? In his comments Thursday, Carson advocated for a more “proportional tax system” and expressed concern about America’s shrinking military.
Best line: “If Hillary is the candidate, which I doubt, that would be a dream come true.”
6. Ted Cruz — Cruz said he’ll rescind every unconstitutional executive order issued by the Obama administration and vowed to order the Department of Justice to investigate Planned Parenthood. When FOXNews’s Chris Wallace asked Cruz about his penchant for “divisiveness” and his refusal to tow the party line, Cruz responded with a statement he’s likely waited all year to make: “Chris, I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth.” If only being president was that simple.
Best line: “I tried to get the Senate to vote to pass Kate’s law (a law he proposed in the wake of the recent murder of an American woman by an illegal immigrant) just one week ago, and the leader of our own party blocked a vote.”
7. Marco Rubio — Wallace began by asking the son of Cuban immigrants about his views on illegal immigration and whether he thinks all illegal immigrants are criminals. Rubio, who has supported a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants already here, said that it’s not only time for America to build a fence but to also establish an e-verify system and an entry-exit trafficking system. On the issue of taxes, Rubio said he’d lower the tax code for small businesses to 25 percent, “just as we need to lower it for all businesses.”
Best line: “And let me tell you who never gets talked about in these debates. The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they’ve paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can’t get in. And they’re wondering, maybe they should come illegally.”
8. Rand Paul — The second doctor on the stage last night (after Ben Carson), Paul seemed to have put too much gel in his hair ahead of Thursday’s debate. He may have also put too much energy into his squabbles with other candidates. Paul appeared to take Christie’s criticisms of his stance against the NSA’s data collection personally. Paul also said he’s committed to being a Reagan conservative.
Best line: “I don’t trust President Obama with our (phone) records. I know you gave him a big hug and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.” (Referring to Christie’s numerous photo-ops with the president following Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.)
9. Chris Christie — If you’ve ever trash-talked Jets or Giants fans in the asphalt jungles located off of Exit 16W, you know where Christie’s coming from. Baier said Christie is “not exactly the darling of conservatives,” referring to Christie’s progressive actions, such as approving in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants. Baier also pressed Christie on the current financial status of New Jersey. Christie deflected criticism by reminding viewers that New Jersey was in even worse shape before he arrived.
Best line: “We have got to stop worrying about being loved and start worrying about being respected, and that’s exactly how I’ll lead our country.”
10. John Kasich — Kasich is no stranger to Cleveland, the host city for the debate. After all, it’s one of the three largest cities in the state he governs, Ohio. Kasich touted the 350,000 jobs Ohio has added under his leadership. He also never got “into it” with any of his fellow debaters. The “nice guy” persona may help him in the Midwest, but it is unclear if that will translate into respect from more conservative voters.
Best line: “Let’s start off with my father being a mailman…”
The 5 p.m. undercard was far more civil. Fiorina was the clear victor, according to pretty much everyone. She was stacked up against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Fiorina was challenged early on about her low poll numbers but reminded viewers that previous presidents carried low initial polling numbers as well.
Asked if Trump was “getting the better” of her, Fiorina reminded viewers of Trump’s generous donations to the Clintons and coolly stated that, unlike Trump, she did not receive a phone call from Bill Clinton prior to entering the race – even turning casually to her colleagues and asking, “did any of you guys get a call?”
Fiorina acknowledged that Trump has succeeded in “tapping into an anger” Americans understandably feel toward politicians who have let them down, but she also took him to task for his public waffling on issues such as amnesty and abortion.
It was no surprise that, given her tech background, Fiorina was asked about cyberspace security concerns. She pointed out that terrorist organizations like ISIS are increasingly reliant upon social media. She noted the concerns over potential hacking by unfriendly foreign governments.
Fiorina called on Google and Apple to help America stand on guard, since they are the same companies who have inadvertently designed the same “cyber walls” that terrorists have used to “go dark.”
But beyond the rhetoric, Fiorina’s best answer might have come when asked about why she is a conservative. Fiorina said she is a conservative because “no one of us is any better than any other one of us.”
In her closing statements, Fiorina took on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner. She blasted Clinton’s handling of Benghazi, ripped Clinton’s defense of Planned Parenthood, and also noted the current scandal surrounding Clinton’s use of personal email to conduct confidential State Department business.
Best line: “I am not a member of the political class. I am a conservative; I can win this job. I can do this job. I need your help. I need your support. I will, with your help and support, lead the resurgence of this great nation.”
1. Rick Perry (he of the designer eyeglasses). Best line: “I’m also going to take a bottle of White-Out with me to get started on all those executive orders that Mr. Obama has put his name to.”
2. Bobby Jindal (whose approval numbers in his home state are languishing in the 30s). Best line: “Well, first of all, thank you all for having us.”
3. Rick Santorum (remember when he won the Iowa caucus four years ago? That actually happened). Best line: “We’re a country of laws, not of men, not of people who do whatever they want to do. I know we have a president who wants to do whatever he wants to do, and take his pen and his phone and just tell everybody what he thinks is best.”
4. Lindsey Graham (he of the not-so-tall stature – he needs to remember at all times to stay away from oversized helmets and M1 Abrams tanks). Best line: “I don’t think it’s a war on women for all of us Americans to stand up and stop harvesting organs from little babies.”
5. George Pataki. Best line: “I defeated Mario Cuomo.”
6. Jim Gilmore. Best line: (referring to Hillary Clinton) “Professional politician that can’t be trusted.” Pot, meet kettle.
Contact Evan Lips at [email protected]