Politics

The Latest GOP Debate – Trump still Leads, But This is Starting to Look Like the Cruz/Rubio Show

GOP Presidential Debate CNN
Written by Onan Coca

Let’s begin by saying this debate was not the train wreck that the CNBC debate was, but honestly, it’s not like anything could be that bad again, right?

That being said, I was again disappointed in the direction this debate took. Almost from the very beginning we could tell that CNN was looking to sew strife on the stage because of the way they framed some of the questions.

The best thing about this debate was that Donald Trump was quickly pushed aside when a few of the other candidates pointed out some of his more fantastical ideas on foreign policy and the war on terror. I don’t think Trump’s debate efforts will hurt him in the polls because nothing seems to hurt him in the polls, but I don’t think he won any new voters either.

What depressed me the most was the contentious way that the debate turned Marco Rubio against Ted Cruz.

The GOP nominating process is quickly crystalizing into a fight between two outsiders (Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson) and two Senators (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz), but while the two outsiders continue to perform in the polls, it’s the two Senators who are beginning to look more and more presidential. Out of the gate, Rubio took a swipe at Cruz’s decision to stand against the NSA’s unconstitutional and illegal spying on innocent American citizens. Cruz was forced on to the defensive, and the moderators didn’t make it any easier for him as they framed the questions in very unfavorable terms.

In light of the recent terror attacks, Rubio painted Cruz as weak on national defense — because he was trying to defend our constitutional rights — and that really just broke my heart. I know that Rubio messed up on immigration, but in spite of that, I still really like him, so watching him attack Cruz for standing for the Constitution was just gut-wrenching… I have a feeling though that this was the establishment’s plan all along. (Which makes me wonder about the debate moderators and their process for choosing the questions…)

This was the toughest battle between the two candidates thus far, but I think things between Rubio and Cruz are likely to get worse before they get better.

How about the rest of the debate?

Let’s start with the LOSERS:

Is it just me or is John Kasich (R-OH) running the most useless campaign in recorded history? Why is he running? Why is anyone considering him? I have to believe that every single voter who plans to vote for him lives in Ohio because he is as moderate, milquetoast and unremarkable as any candidate I’ve ever seen.

Rand Paul (R-KY) is putting up a valiant fight and I think he may be having more fun now that he is getting to focus on things he really cares about… but these aren’t the issues that are going to win him the campaign. While he did a good job in the debate and made some excellent (and memorable) points (like after Chris Christie said he would shoot down Russian fighters Rand Paul responded with, “If you want World War III, you have your candidate.”), I don’t think he moved the needle with this debate performance, and I don’t expect him to be on stage in the next debate.

Carly Fiorina showed some fight but honestly, if you weren’t with her before the debate, she didn’t give you anything new to latch on to tonight.

Dr. Ben Carson tried really hard. He always does. But these debates just seem to run so contrary to his nature and personality. He made some good points, but there were a lot of missed opportunities. In fact, there was one time when Wolf Blitzer asked him to wade into a fight between two of his competitors and Carson begged off! Even if he didn’t want to comment on their spat, he should have used the time to talk about himself, his ideas and his plans. I don’t foresee Dr. Carson bouncing back after this debate performance.

Now the Winners:

Chris Christie (R-NJ) showed up in Las Vegas and he’ll probably see a bit of momentum from the night. The only problem at this point is that I just don’t understand what distinguishes him from Marco Rubio in this process. Christie’s best moments come when talking about the war on terror, but Rubio’s ideas are just as strong and more fleshed out. Along with that, there are several other areas where Rubio is much stronger with the base than Christie is… so I’m just not sure how Christie gets an opening in this process.

Jeb Bush (R-FL) finally showing some life and some fight. He came out Tuesday night ready to fight with Donald Trump, and he didn’t look nearly as lethargic as he has in the recent past. Sadly, I think it’s too little too late for Jeb. Most of the establishment has already moved on to Marco Rubio, and if they were to pull away from Rubio now, it might give Ted Cruz the window he needs to really get some momentum in the polls. Bush is finished, the writing is on the wall, and at this point he’s just playing out the clock.

Donald Trump had some solid moments, but tonight will be memorable because of the many crazy ideas Trump was saddled with in this debate. Wanting to kill the families of terrorists. Wanting to shut down portions of the internet. Building a “great” wall between us and Mexico. Wanting to keep every Muslim out of America for the foreseeable future. Some of these ideas don’t sound too crazy until you start thinking about the constitutionality, the legalities, the logistics and the costs… but they are crazy. We may one day look back on this debate as the turning point of the Trump campaign for president… or maybe none of it will matter. But this will definitely be remembered as the debate where Donald Trump became “the candidate of crazy.”

Perhaps the most important moment of the debate came from Trump when he said he was “totally committed” to the GOP and promised not to run as an independent.

I know it seems odd that I would say all this and then count Trump among “the winners,” but Trump seems to defy every “normal” standard that we usually measure candidates against.

And now the REAL WINNERS:

You should already have surmised that I believe tonight’s debate was really all about picking between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, so this part of the conversation won’t surprise.

Ted Cruz (R-TX) had some really strong moments. He did a great job in Vegas, but I think he’ll end up getting 2nd place in this debate because Rubio and the moderators forced him back on his heels. While I personally believe that Cruz makes the better substantive arguments on foreign policy and the war on terror, Rubio’s policy ideas fit better into smaller sound bites and have been crafted for the debate stage. I think we’ll see Cruz walk away having learned what the Rubio team will be looking to throw at him over the next few weeks and months, and I think we’ll see him respond accordingly. I would venture to guess that Ted Cruz will not be pushed back on his heels by Marco Rubio again…

Which means that the Big Winner in Vegas was Marco Rubio (R-FL). He looked strong most of the night. He was hit with a couple of possible haymakers, but he didn’t buckle. He must know by now that some of his foreign policy and war on terror ideas have weaknesses (both constitutionally and fiscally), but he figured out how to avoid talking about those tonight. Instead, he focused the conversation on the enemy and on the idea that Cruz had “weakened” our national defense (which is completely untrue). I hope that Rubio can avoid such low blows in the future, but I’m not optimistic… I think that tonight was the first salvo in Rubio’s planned war against Ted Cruz.

If I’m right, the next couple of months may not be very pretty for conservatives.

I wish these debates would stop picking at the little, petty and the controversial. I wish they would zero in on philosophy and focus themselves on the heart of the matter politically speaking. What will you, as a conservative President, do to reinvigorate our economy, to protect our liberties, and to guard our borders?

This is what is important. This is the heart of the matter.

 

Here are some thoughts on the debate from a few other observers.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Onan Coca

Onan is the Editor-in-Chief at Liberty Alliance media group. He's also the managing editor at Eaglerising.com, Constitution.com and the managing partner at iPatriot.com. You can read more of his writing at Eagle Rising.
Onan is a graduate of Liberty University (2003) and earned his M.Ed. at Western Governors University in 2012. Onan lives in Atlanta with his wife and their three wonderful children.

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