By Brenden Gallagher
This debate was supposed to be about the economy. But we all know that the economy is boring. Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal’s moderators did their best to keep the debaters on task, but these candidates came into the debate knowing that they needed to score points. It’s late in the game for this many suits and flag lapel pins to be taking up space on the main stage; it’s time to start thinning the herd. Last night, the candidates went big, doing their best to wiggle out of boring tax and budget questions and toss the hail mary passes that will keep them in the race.
It’s been a hard news week for the major candidates. Jeb Bush told America he would go back in time and kill Baby Hitler. We learned that Ben Carson has “Proverbs” misspelled engraved above his fire place. We learned that Marco Rubio doesn’t know how to handle his credit cards. And we still don’t know who the Hell John Kasich is.
The candidates went hard last night. And, yes they each ended up saying some pretty ridiculous shit in hopes of standing out. Let’s run down what the candidates said and how it helped or hurt (mostly hurt) their Presidential chances.
“We will have a wall. The wall will be built. The wall will be successful.”
Everyone’s favorite candidate to watch and everyone’s least favorite SNL host continued his attempt to forge a kinder, gentler version of his campaign. These days, he’s trying to sound a little bit more reasonable than he did when he blew into the campaign with as much hot air as he could muster. Unfortunately for Trump, immigration was discussed, and his policy of building a wall and deporting eleven million people makes him sound like a comic book villain, and not even one that is terribly interesting.
John Kasich called Trump’s tax plan “a child’s argument.” Trump responded to this insult with a child’s answer, saying, “I don’t have to listen to him.”
Debate Grade: Shockingly, Trump didn’t say too much other crazy stuff. Other than calling Vladimir Putin his “stablemate” and telling Carly Fiorina to be quiet, he generally came off as semi-sane. In this crowd, semi-sane earns you a B-.
“I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about.”
After all of the scrutiny Carson has faced this week, the Fox Business team had to ask him about his personal life. Carson claimed that he almost killed a child when he was younger. Looks like a lie. He claimed he was offered a scholarship to West Point. Looks like a lie. He has a picture of himself and Jesus in his house that looks like it was painted at a town carnival. That one’s actually true.
What did he have to say for himself? “People who know me know. I’m an honest person.” That’s a line you use when you’re caught in a hotel room with a hooker and a mountain of cocaine, not one that gets you elected President.
Debate Grade:: It’s only a matter of time until the surgeon’s campaign is pronounced dead. Last night, the good doctor didn’t do anything to stop the bleeding. D
“We need to … go to a three page tax code.”
Carly’s campaign priorities seem to be to make sure H&R Block makes fewer seasonal hires and that dads everywhere will be less confused as they try to sort out manila envelopes filled with receipts.
Debate Grade: Fiorina has looked sharp through the early debates, but simplifying the tax code and bragging about having met Putin aren’t going to inspire an underdog victory. She needed a big moment, and it didn’t come. C
“I want a government really really small. So small you can barely see it.”
Rand Paul likes his government like your boyfriend likes your underwear. Paul comes off as unrealistic or boring depending on which of his talking points he hits, and yelling about how candidates aren’t conservative enough isn’t going to change that.
Debate Grade: Paul would make a boring economics professor, let along a Presidential candidate. Fellow Republicans have been encouraging him to give up his campaign and focus on defending his Senate seat. They’re right. D
“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
It turns out that not only did this statement come out of nowhere, it is also wrong.
Debate Grade: Even though Rubio shouted out Candy Crush, he still looks like most electable candidate in the field. Even though we have a bunch of debates left, Rubio is starting to look like The New England Patriots. You just can’t see anyone else beating him. A-
“There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible. And not one of them is as good.”
Like Fiorina, Cruz is very concerned about the length of policy documents. If we learned anything from reading Moby Dick or Crime and Punishment it is that if something is long, it is probably bad.
Debate Grade: Cruz did his usual “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the purest conservative of them all” bit, even going as far to call the Fed “philosopher kings.” As the debates go on, applause gets quieter for Cruz, and it looks like his schtick is wearing thin. C-
“[King Abdullah of Jordan], may he reign a thousand years.”
Kasich has positioned himself as the “cranky uncle” of the Republican debates. It is difficult to say anything too dumb when all you do is tell other candidates that they’re wrong because they’ve never been a governor.
Debate Grade: As the most moderate candidate in the Republican race, Kasich comes off as reasonable, but in the same way a rumpled middle school principle who has nothing left but to look forward to retirement comes off as reasonable. B-
“Reagan Love. By the way, pretty great name I think.”
It’s amazing how Jeb consistently fails to get a word in edgewise. Six months ago, it looked like all he had to do was show up to get the nomination. It starting to look like he might run an entire failed campaign without ever showing up.
Debate Grade: It doesn’t look like there’s much that Jeb can fix. F