The Roundup: GOP debate No. 2

Printed from:

SIMI VALLEY, CALIF. – Carly Fiorina took a shot at the king and didn’t miss.

Fiorina, whose improved poll numbers resulted in her promotion to the primetime Republican presidential debate held Thursday, showed plenty of fight during the marathon event.

The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard managed to do something that none of the other Republican candidates had been able to do – she made Donald Trump walk back one of his patented brash barbs.

Fiorina’s moment came with the help of CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper, who served up the opportunity up like a Little League meatball:

“In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine,” Tapper said, “Donald Trump said the following about you: ‘Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?’ Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond with what you think about his persona.”

After briefly looking down and grimacing like she had just swallowed a chunk of raw lemon, Fiorina looked up at Tapper with a steel-eyed expression and replied: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Fiorina then did something rare for candidates participating in a high-intensity debate.

She shut up and let the audience do the rest. And the crowd took the cue, delivering a full 12 seconds of applause, prompting Trump to walk back his Rolling Stone comment:

Yet he still focused on his opponent’s physical appearance: “I think she’s got a beautiful face,” Trump said as the cheering for Fiorina died down. “I think she’s a beautiful woman.”

Fiorina also managed to connect the remark with Trump’s crass reference to a woman’s menstrual cycle when he commented about FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly, saying after the first GOP debate, in August, that she had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

During the second primetime GOP debate, few of the other participants made such a splash. On the stage with Trump and Fiorina were 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.

So who actually won the debate?

Pundits will make their separate claims as to who came out on top, but data-driven Google kept a tally of how many times during the debate users hit up its website, and kept track of their relevant searches.

According to Google data, Christie’s final answer in the debate clearly bested the 10 other candidates.

Christie’s popularity in terms of internet searches during the debate didn’t surge until the very end, however, as Trump spent the most time talking and landed the highest amount of Googling during the three-plus hours the candidates spent on stage.

Another data-driven site,, placed Bush on top. PredictWise, a research project staffed partly by Microsoft analysts that aggregates the results of various betting markets, claims that free-falling poll numbers for candidates like Kasich and Walker are serving as fuel for Bush.

The site tracked real-time betting market data throughout the debate. One of the more interesting markers showed Rubio leapfrogging Trump at one point.

PredictWise currently claims Bush has a 40 percent chance of landing the Republican nomination, with the likes of Rubio and Trump hovering in the mid-teens.

Meanwhile, another indicator is a little simpler – which candidate garnered the most new followers on Twitter following the debate?

Forbes contributing editor Dan Diamond kept score of the gains and declared Fiorina the winner of Wednesday night’s Twitter trophy.

Yet even though her number of followers jumped to 539,000 that night, Trump at 4.19 million remains king of that virtual hill.

Before pundits dismiss data-driven presidential predictions, it would serve them well to remember the lessons learned in 2008, when a stat geek named Nate Silver used his experience in baseball sabermetrics to correctly predict that Barack Obama would be the next U.S. president.

So what did the candidates actually say?
1. Donald Trump – Again landing the center stage position, the bare-knuckled New Yorker wasted no time laying into one of his favorite whipping-boy targets in Kentucky’s Paul, who he said “shouldn’t even be on this stage” because of low poll numbers. One of the more interesting moments for Trump was when he was asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Donald said he “would talk to him” and “get along with him.”
Best line: “She can’t run any of my companies. That I can tell you.” – on Fiorina as a businesswoman.

2. Jeb Bush – The son and brother of former presidents emerged a lot feistier this time around, having been mercilessly poked by Trump and others for appearing wooden in the first debate. Bush also tried to soften his image a little by publicly acknowledging that he dabbled in marijuana as a young man.
Best line: “Ever Ready, it’s very high energy, Donald.” – when asked if elected what his Secret Service code name would be. While it came off as dig aimed at Trump, who made fun of Bush when a camera crew snapped video of someone napping during one of Bush’s stump speeches, it was also what his Florida security detail called the then-governor, according to the Washington Post.

3. Ben Carson – The doctor didn’t deliver much fire, but that seemed largely to stem from his public demeanor. It’s simply not in character for Carson to take a scorched-earth approach like Trump and Christie. Carson did, however, put himself out there by saying he wouldn’t have gone to war following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Best line: “He’s an OK doctor.” – to Trump, after being asked by Tapper to evaluate the real estate developer’s medical expertise after Trump voiced concerns about childhood vaccines. The comical jab drew laughter and came in response to Trump’s critique of Carson’s medical skills. The neurosurgeon earned fame by successfully separating twins joined at the head.

4. Chris Christie – The New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor fell back on a tried-and-true tactic throughout the debate: He talked about the economy every chance he got. He also had a lot of time to think about what he was going to say, as there was a 32-minute period when he was not called on. Christie criticized Fiorina and Trump for focusing too much on themselves and not enough on the issues.
Best line: “For the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I’ve got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers; they care about theirs.” – to Fiorina and Trump.

5. Ted Cruz – The former Supreme Court litigator stood quietly at the start of the debate but when the topic turned to Planned Parenthood and the nuclear deal with Iran, the Texas senator came alive. Cruz said he’d “rip to shreds” the deal ironed out with Iran, stuck to his belief that it’s Congress’s duty to defund the women’s health group even if that means shutting down the federal government. He also managed to call President George W. Bush’s appointment of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court “a mistake.”
Best line: “You want to know what I’ll do as president? It is real simple. We’ll kill the terrorists, we’ll repeal Obamacare and we will defend the Constitution, every single word of it.”

6. Mike Huckabee – The former governor turned broadcast personality has spent more time in Kentucky defending Kim Davis, a rural town clerk there, for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses than has Paul, one of the state’s U.S. senators. Huckabee kept it up Wednesday, highlighting his support for Davis, whom he visited while she was jailed for her actions.
Best line: “This agreement, that the president treats like the Magna Carta, but Iranians treat like it’s toilet paper.” – on the Iran nuclear deal.

7. John Kasich – Like Carson, the Ohio governor’s positive, even-tempered public style may hurt him. It took nearly 90 minutes before he was able to command the microphone with any presence. What he said was important: Kasich reminded viewers about his state’s economic turnaround, having gone from an $8 billion budget deficit to a $2 billion surplus during his administration.
Best line: “If I were sitting at home and watching this thing go back in forth, I’d be inclined to turn it off.” – on the squabbling between candidates.

8. Carly Fiorina – The first-time presidential candidate emerged as the darling of the debate, according to many media outlets. She took on Trump and defended her business track record. But she also said some things about how she would handle Russia that may come back to hurt her. Fiorina suggested that she “doesn’t need to talk” to Russia’s Putin, that she’d rebuild American missile defense systems in Poland and would “conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states” to deter Moscow.
Best line (after her Trump zinger): “I very much hope I am the only person on this stage who can say this, but I know there are millions of Americans out there who will say the same thing: my husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction, so we must invest more in the treatment of drugs.” – on her personal family history.

9. Rand Paul – When the Kentuckian wasn’t dodging proverbial uppercuts from Trump, he was trying his best to return them, and he didn’t fare too well. Paul did flex some of his libertarian muscle when talking about his dislike for military intervention overseas.
Best line: “We could see how many people smoked pot in high school.” – a challenge Paul posed to his competitors on the stage.

10. Marco Rubio – Rubio made the most of what looked like a limited allotment of speaking time. Rubio spent considerable amounts of it on foreign policy, noting that America’s retreat from the Middle East under Obama has made the region less stable, citing the situation in Syria. Rubio also responded with a solid comeback to Trump’s criticism for missing Senate votes, referring to Washington’s political establishment as out-of-touch with the rest of the country.
Best line: “I’m also aware that California has a drought, and so that’s why I made sure I brought my own water.” – on an awkward moment, during a nationally broadcast Republican response to Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech, when he paused to take a long drink of water.

11. Scott Walker – The Wisconsin governor came out swinging in the beginning, launching an early attack on Trump. But few seemed to notice. Walker spoke for only about eight minutes during the marathon debate.
Best line: “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now.” – mocking Trump’s role hosting his popular television show while also throwing a jab at Obama.

The next GOP debate is set for Oct. 28 at the University of Colorado – Boulder.

RELATED: The Roundup: GOP debate no. 1