Post-Debate, Short-Form Analysis
The debates have just wrapped up. Candidate by candidate, here are my quick thoughts.
Marco Rubio had a very surprising performance. My early analysis was that Rubio's junior status and unclear message were his weaknesses. I think he overcame those weaknesses with a powerful performance that focused primarily on foreign policy. He came off as sober and serious and I think he looked both presidential and as frankly quite reasonable to my liberal leanings. I predict a surge in the polls for Rubio.
Rand Paul also defied my expectations. He managed to paint himself as a libertarian with some views that cross party lines. His discussion of respecting state rights regarding marijuana was a great moment for him, and he had a chance to go head to head with Bush on that issue to great effect. Rand Paul is certainly still in this race.
Trump played a tight game. He's got a big stack of chips and he's got no reason to bet them all. He lost the most ground I think in the discussion of vaccines and autism. He sounded, for the first time, really actually dumb when compared with Dr. Carson's clear analysis of the issue. All in all Trump did fairly well and my prediction is he remains flat in the polls.
Jeb Bush showed some more life tonight. I think he gained ground and continued to project a presidential quality. He's in this for the long haul and still remains an extremely viable candidate.
Ben Carson was fairly charming. He was polite and courteous and it's hard to not respect his respectful tone. It continues to seem authentic. That said, the criticism that Carson lacks energy remains completely valid. The dude looked like he was on valium all night. He's too nice for politics.
Carly Fiorina showed up tonight. She was extremely well-prepared and was ready to tackle Trump. I think she'll take some of Carson's votes because she has that outsider pedigree, but has a much better energy. She'll move up in the pack without a doubt - way up.
Chris Christie had a good night. He's going to shuffle up in the ranks but I'm not looking for a huge move here. His appeal to middle America was the most honed of the candidates and that might resonate in that demographic.
Mike Huckabee was flat. He delivered exactly as expected and I don't think he gained any ground. A fine performance for his platform, but I really think it's his platform that is the biggest problem rather than his personality.
Ted Cruz talked to his base and I think was pretty effective at that. He's got an interesting hard-line position with his values and he communicates it well. I don't think he gained ground and I don't think he lost ground. I think his base will remain strong but that other candidates may surge past his current 3rd place position in Iowa.
John Kasich is playing a long game and wants to work his ground game in Iowa and New Hampshire. I think he still wants people to get to know who he is and he took that very record-based debate approach. He'll stick around, but I don't think he gained any real national momentum.
Scott Walker is done for. The guy's a wiener.
Highlights of the night:
When they had to come up with their Secret Service codenames. Great stuff there, very insightful.
Trump patting Carson's ass for not blowing him up when Trump gave him a huge opening.