The seventh GOP presidential debate was an odd combination of vicious attacks and boring, rehearsed stump speeches.
Donald Trump came out unscathed. If he got a chance to watch, he must have been very amused seeing his rivals kill each other. After showing video montages of his rivals flip-flopping on issues like immigration, one can only imagine the montage Fox News had planned for Trump. He was a big winner by not being there.
Of those debating, Jeb Bush had the best night. He showed himself to be the most thoughtful person on stage. He appears to have actually discussed these issues before and was especially effective challenging Rubio on immigration. Without Trump on stage, it was as if Bush could finally relax and be himself.
Rand Paul was also very effective. He stands by his positions — such as surveillance and immigration — no matter how unpopular. He also had the crowd stacked with supporters which helped.
Ted Cruz came out early trying to mock Trump but it flopped badly and he never mentioned the GOP frontrunner again. He spent the rest of the debate being attacked by everyone. It’s almost as if Trump is right when he says, “No one likes Ted.” It was not his strongest night.
As for Marco Rubio, he just speaks too quickly. He’s not polished, as some claim, he’s programmed to avoid answering questions. He talks like a robot. His best moment was when he unloaded on Cruz over immigration but he’s had much better debates.
Chris Christie made sure everyone knows he’s a governor and that Cruz and Rubio are not. He took every chance he could to attack Hillary Clinton but he made little effort to distinguish himself as a better choice than his rivals.
John Kasich must have been thinking about New Hampshire because he didn’t really show up tonight.
Ben Carson never really shows up. I’d be surprised if his total speaking time was much more than five minutes.
Finally, no matter what Trump says, Megyn Kelly is actually a pretty good moderator. She was tough in her questions and didn’t let anyone push her around.