First off, the first debate, the secondary candidates.was a sad affair in a mostly empty amphitheater. The mood was like a balloon with the air let out of it. Two great quotes on Donald Trump.... "How can a conservative candidate be for single payer healthcare?" from Rick Perry...."I didn't get a call from Bill Clinton telling me to run, did you?" from Carly Fiorina. Also Lindsay Graham is a sad little man
Onto the main event debate, among the top ten Republican candidates....
1.) The times they spoke and number of questions to answer by each candidate seemed off. Some candidates were speaking every few minutes, others hardly got a chance to speak. Wonder if Fox News planned all that out in advance or if they were flying by the seat of their pants. I do think the moderators asked some tough questions which was a highlight. Here's the breakdown of times - I am surprised as I thought Ted Cruz spoke less and Scott Walker spoke more.
2.) Donald Trump was awful of course - Not answering questions, totally unschooled in the subjects he was asked about, just giving talking points or whatever random nonsense popped up in his hand. Sure it's entertaining but it represents a complete debasement of the political process. The fact a good sized chunk of people support him (and will still - this debate won't change anyone's mind) confirms for some every negative stereotype people have about the USA..
3.) John Kasich came across as the Jon Huntsman of 2015, a moderate, likable. He would be a formidable general election candidate but I think Republicans will be too angry to go for him. Scott Walker was slick, he really had his answers down pat. I am not a fan of his politics but Dr Ben Carson is a thoughtful, intelligent person.
4.) The Rand Paul/Chris Christie exchange - Paul was absolutely right on the NSA but neither of them came off well. Paul's problem is unlike his father who won every debate exchange he was in in 2008 and 2012 I am not sure he believes in what he is saying. He has tried too hard to nuance and triangulate his Libertarian views to fit in the Republican party. He did not have a good night.
5.) Ted Cruz - what a sap. Let's settle two things 1.) Iran is not "on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon" Every credible military analyst and expert say that Iran is years away from this 2.) "The Iran hostages were released the day Ronald Reagan took office" because Reagan's campaign staff cut a deal with the Iranian revolutionaries (October Surprise) that bribed them to hold onto the hostages until then.
6.) I don't think Jeb Bush did great either. Spent a lot of time running away from past positions that are out of step with a very conservative Republican Party. He's wrong on both Common Core (federal education standards are a must but what I've seen of Common Core is rote memorization in the place of critical thinking and too much emphasis on exams. Not the way to produce a generation of innovators) and raising the age for Social Security (This is based on a false premise - People living longer does not mean quality of life has improved. It only means science has found ways to extend life. 80 is not the new 60 especially if you smoke or have a bad diet).
7.)The audience seemed to be better at controlling itself from debates past (when they booed gay veterans, people without healthcare, and criticizing torture). Not as many boos as expected when Kasich said he went to a gay friend's wedding. Progress I guess or a better understanding of how they look on TV.
8.)That last question about God - How refreshing it would be to have a political candidate answer that by saying "There is no God. I rely on common sense and logic and negotiation. I take strength from my sense of responsibility and from good people around me but not from superstition and something that isn't real" but it's very hard to imagine an atheist getting elected in America and that's too bad.