Analysis: no real stand-outs in GOP debate

For The News-Letter

The fourth GOP debate of the 2016 presidential race was held on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. The debate was hosted by Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal, and it was moderated by Gerard Baker, Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo. The discussion focused on economic policy, current events and foreign policy. Eight of the 14 Republican candidates, averaging higher than 2.5 percent in four national polls, qualified for the primetime debate.

On the whole no one candidate gave a performance that either severely hindered or bolstered their campaign. Although Donald Trump was not as bombastic as usual, his talking points remained emotional and lacked substantive policy suggestions.

Ben Carson, former head of the neuroscience department at Johns Hopkins Hospital, stumbled through foreign policy but performed well in other areas of the debate. Carly Fiorina continued to prove herself an excellent debater.
Sophomore Justin Thomas spoke about the ambivalent performances of some candidates.

“Frankly I believe all the candidates performed well. Therefore no one really helped or hurt their candidacy,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. ”There are still too many candidates onstage for the debates to have real dialogue on specifics in the allotted time.”

In the first round of questions Carly Fiorina came out strong and clearly outlined her plans for economic and tax reform — specifically a five-point plan including zero-based budgeting, a reformed three-page tax code, a review of every regulation in the books, increased accountability for government officials and reduced government size.

“All this has to be done and the citizens of this nation must help a President Fiorina get it done. We must take our government back,” Fiorina said.

Even though Fiorina does well on the debate stage, College Republicans President and senior Nitin Nainani commented on her inability to turn temporary debate success into long-run gains.

“I have not really cared for the Fiorina hype,” Nainani said. “I insisted her surge [after the second debate] would be very temporary because of all the baggage she has to deal with [from] HP. She also doesn’t have a functioning campaign staff, and her super PAC is running her entire campaign for her. She temporarily spikes after the debates and then goes back down in the weeks after. Considering that the next debate isn’t for another five weeks I don’t think that this really helps her much in the long run.”

Halfway through the debate Senator Rand Paul (Ky.) challenged Senator Marco Rubio’s (Fla.) plan for a child tax-credit increase.

“Is it fiscally conservative to have a trillion dollar expenditure? We’re not talking about giving people back their tax money. He is talking about giving people money they didn’t pay. It’s a welfare transfer payment,” Paul said. “Add that to Rubio’s trillion dollars in military spending and you get something that looks to me like it isn’t very conservative.”

Thomas felt that this was a solid example of Senator Paul’s overall successful debate performance.

“Rand Paul really had memorable moments, especially questioning Marco Rubio on fiscal conservatism,” he wrote.
With regard to the debate’s influence on each of the candidate’s campaigns, junior Justin Karp thought it did have much of an effect.

“My opinion is that this was the least impactful debate of the three so far on the candidates’ chances. They all pretty much stayed their courses to be honest,” Karp wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “However, Jeb Bush looks to be finished and he didn’t have the lively performance that was necessary for him to get back in it. Marco Rubio is now the clear and solid frontrunner in my opinion as he had another solid debate. Other than that, the rest were all pretty similar to how they’ve been in the past.”

Nainani agreed with Karp although he pointed out the significance of this debate pertaining to the ‘invisible primary,’ a colloquialism for the action happening behind the scenes between candidates and donors, allowing candidates to financially bolster their campaigns.

“This was a debate where everyone can walk away from it and say that their guy did fairly well. For the most part I thought that the performances were fairly even and everyone got their two cents in,” he said. “Most people kept to their stump speech, and most people were in their comfort zone for the majority of the debate so I don’t think that anyone got thrown off or anything of that sort. I do think this debate was more about the ‘invisible primary’ with the donors. In that sense I think that Rubio continues to attract more support.”

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