Tonight was the third GOP debate aired on CNBC and it was an interesting one. First, the earlier debate with Santorum, Jindal, Graham and Pataki was pretty much a repeat of previous performances. Graham used jokes and zingers to keep the audience’s attention. Pataki kept bringin up his record as governor of New York while Jindal and Santorum reminded the audience that their policies worked in their respective states. The winner of this debate was Lindsey Graham. Rick Santorum did well, but his economic policies were not that clear.
Second, in the main debate, the front runner was not Donald Trump but Ben Carson. Recent polls have Carson ahead of Trump. Many were expecting Trump to attack Carson but the opposite happened. Political pundits believe this was a smart move by Trump. He did not give the Democrats what they wanted to see. Kasick came out on the offensive in this debate attacking the candidates, especially Trump and Carson for having a “fantasy economy.” Trump hit back by calling attention to Kasick’s involvement in the Lehman brothers financial company. Chris Christie kept focusing on his plan to raise the retirement age and cited his background as an attorney and government as evidence that he would make a great president. Both Cruz and Rubio did the best with Rubio winning the debate in my opinion.
Jeb Bush came across as aloof and petulant. He even went after Rubio on his senate attendance which was shocking. Rubio responded by turning it around and stating that someone told Jeb to attack him and added that he is not running against his fellow republicans but is running for president. Carly Fiorina smiled more in this debate and was put on the defensive by moderators for her record and firing in regards to her time at the HP company. She did well, but not as strong as the last debate. Carson came across as aloof and unprepared. The crowd booed moderators for asking him about his vetting process in regards to appearing on an ad for Mannatech, a nutritional-supplement company based in Texas which claims to have a cure for autism. Trump was not as strong as previous debates and repeated the same “I will build a wall” rhetoric without giving anymore details. Ted Cruz spoke well, presented his ideas and showed reaffirmed his loyalty to the Constitution but got upset with the CNBC moderators. He scolded them bringing the audience to erupt with cheers. The moderators for CNBC were clearly asking questions that were set up to pit Republican against Republican. In one instance, Mike Huckabee was asked if he thought Trump was a moral authority and capable of running the United States. He responded by defending Trump and attacking Clinton. Rand Paul hardly spoke and was passive during inter-discussions.
CNBC and Jeb Bush lost this debate. CNBC and its moderators clearly had an agenda to make the Republican candidates look foolish and fight among themselves. Their questions were set up for “gotcha” moments and most of the time did not reflect the issues at hand. Some questions were personal attacks as well. Trump was described as “comic-villain” in one of them. In a sense, the moderators seemed to have been part of the actual debate instead of moderating it. The moderators did an unprofessional job bringing the Republican National Committee president Reince Priebus to criticize them in front of the media. Furthermore, Jeb Bush was not strong. He came across as weak and unable to carry out an attack effectively.
The winner was Marco Rubio with Ted Cruz following, then Christie, Fiorina and Trump. The remaining candidates did poorly.