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Debates sharpen voter focus

August 10, 2015

In a field of 17, prospective GOP voters are understandably looking for something to use to pick the real contenders.

The first GOP debate helped with that process.

Predictably, the candidates repeated their campaign talking points a lot, but there were moments that provided some basis for comparison.

Carly Fiorina, although she wasn’t on the “big stage”, came across as a really viable contender.

For those that lean toward giving a woman a shot at the Oval Office, she seemed to have a good grasp of what sort of responsibility that would actually entail. People that tended to dismiss her as the token GOP nod to gender diversity, may have been surprised by her willingness to punch when necessary and apply reasoned logic to problems instead of just repeating knee-jerk talking points.

Jeb Bush came across well, if not exactly seeming to burn with excitement at being on the stage, and played out the image of the adult in the room.

John Kasich firmly staked out a place toward the top of the class of ’16. As a governor with a real record of improving conditions in his state, and playing with home field advantage, he seemed to provide a lot of the good qualities that Bush seeks to project, with somewhat more gusto.

Scott Walker remained credible, although voters may already be getting tired of the “100,000 protesters” line.

If there was a standout, at least from a visual sense, it was Marco Rubio. He can’t do anything about being a pretty newly minted senator, but he touted his other legislative experience and reminded people that he is still pretty closely attuned to the immigration problems.

On the minus side, the standout, but not in a good way, was Donald Trump. Part of picking candidates is to envision how they would act if they got the job. During and certainly after the televised event, Trump came across as a loud-mouth lout with no real understanding even of how to behave in public. It’s hard to imagine him negotiating in a room full of world leaders, particularly the female ones. Add to that his off-the-wall answers to substantive questions, not to mention his “it’s all about me” answer to the question of running as a third party candidate showed just how much of his “run” is about his own ego.

Senator Paul didn’t shine either, but since he was reportedly ill, he might do better next time.

The rest of the attendees had their moments. Ben Carson’s line about someone beating him to the punch in scheduling brain surgery on politicians was a good one, but his very laid back style can obscure his genuine concern for the country.

All in all, the first debate did what it was supposed to do. It engaged people. The two debate  sessions together are reported to have garnered some 31 million viewers and judging from a short look at Facebook, people were actually listening  and thinking about the candidates.

At this point that’s about all we can hope for, that and the hope that some of the candidates will see the handwriting on the wall sooner rather than later.

From → op-ed

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