Well, the 4th GOP 2016 Presidential Debate has occurred, and it was the most civil of all the debates thus far. Fox Business did an fantastic job of making the questions and the followups about the issues, and not about candidate's personalities. Neil Cavuto did give Dr. Ben Carson an opportunity to address the recent media attacks about his West Point story in his autobiography, but it quickly moved from there to issues of the economy, immigration, and national defense, and all were centered around the economic impacts of each question.
Here is our summary of the debate results, from left to right:
Kasich - Absolutely the most unnecessary candidate on the stage. With poor polling and an inability to grasp the tenor of the average GOP primary voter, he advocates for amnesty in a condescending, sneering tone (What about the CHILDREN??), and drew boos from the audience when telling Ted Cruz that a CEO should choose who to save and who not to save during a bank bailout. His cardinal sin with conservative voters was referring to TPP as 'critical' meaning we reaaaaaally need it to pass! He doesn't seem to be aware of the objections to the dilution of American sovereignty or cutting Congress completely out of trade deals, let alone the horrible open immigration clauses for foreign workers.
Bush - A paler version of Kasich, with the Bush stigma of partnering with Democrats over Republicans hung around his neck. Right out of the gate, he was pouting about the 4 minutes that he got in the last debate, and he was going to make sure he got his due in this debate! His childish demeanor makes us think of Baby Huey, and he does little with his actions to dispel the image. In prior debates, he stood on tip-toe to look taller than everyone else, and scooted his podium during commercial breaks closer to the center of the stage. NOT an inspiring leadership figure. For amnesty, bank bailouts, and forcing a confrontation with Russia in Syria with a no-fly zone.
Rubio - A seriously dangerous candidate. With his boyish looks, it's hard to see him coming, but he is a very quick thinker and has a really good argumentative style. He has an ability to connect with the audience and with viewers and comes across as very sincere. He probably is, but some of what he is sincere about is off-putting. His famous advocacy of the Gang of 8 immigration bill (read: amnesty) was not repudiated last night, and he stayed away from commenting on immigration. Good move on his part. He advocated for vocational training and redesigning higher education, another good move. His mistake came from advocating an even greater child tax CREDIT to parents simply for the act of having children. Rand Paul rightly pointed out that it was not a conservative stance.
Trump - Sedated. A different Donald Trump showed up tonight, and there were little to no fireworks. His only snarky comments came when he rapped Kasich (again) for being lucky that OH found oil, or his state would not have recovered, and when he asked why Carly was interrupting people all the time. Kasich by far was the interruptus maximus, as he was desperately trying to be seen as knowledgable and relevant.
Carson - Back to his calm self, Dr. Carson was given the chance to address his recent media frenzy, and he thanked the moderators for not asking him about what he said in the 10th grade. He then pivoted to Hillary, and deftly spun his recounting of a verbal pledge of a scholarship to contrast it to that of a proven liar like Hillary Clinton whose emails showed her dishonesty. No other standout moments came for Carson.
Cruz - We'll come right back to Sen. Ted Cruz, but here is a hint:
Fiorina - Carly was a softer, gentler version of herself which makes us believe she has been focus-grouping her image in the debates. She still had a couple of poignant moments, however, and was able to insert the phrase, "take our government back" 3-4 times, which plays well with the GOP base. Her best moment was explaining that socialism starts with government creating a problem, and then government stepping in to fix the problem they created.
Paul - His best debt performance by far. He was much calmer, and had a couple of good moments, like reminding Donald Trump that China was not a signatory to the TPP, which pulled the Donald's point out from under him. He also rightly pointed out that Rubio's increase in the Child Tax Credit was a welfare wealth transfer, and not a conservative initiative. He didn't become shrill, as he had in other debates, and didn't try to insert the 4th amendment into the discussion as he seems to at every other debate.
Ted Cruz: The Main Event
Sen. Ted Cruz was on-point and had several great messaging moments. One assessment actually had Cruz with the most speaking time, which is a debate first for him. His only stumble was when he listed the five federal agencies he would do away with, and he listed the Dept of Commerce twice instead of including the Dept of Education. He later joked to Megan Kelly that the Dept of Commerce was so bad he felt we should close it down twice.
As highlighted in the video above, Ted Cruz scored the highest positive response from the Frank Luntz focus group, when he pointed out it was offensive to tell advocates of legal immigration who want to control the border that they are 'anti-immigrant.' He captured the view of millions of Americans who want to control illegal immigration and resent being cast by the media as bigots.
His largest applause line came when he advocated abolishing the IRS, which is a fond goal of conservative GOP voters. He articulated well his tax plan, 10% flat rate for individuals and a $36k tax-free level for families. His plan abolishes corporate income tax and replaces it with a flat 16% for business. Simple, fair, flat.
His assertion that there should be no bank bailouts even in the face of a financial crisis, seemed to astound moderator Neil Cavuto, and brought a sputtering back and forth with Kasich, who has prior experience in banking. Cruz asserted that the officials at the Fed were acting as 'philosopher kings' and stabbing in the dark on monetary policy. Kasich, mistaking his point, said that philosophy doesn't work when you have to run things, essentially making Cruz's point for him. Cruz engaged Kasich in a back-and-forth that ended with Kasich admitting that as President, he would choose winners and losers in a financial crisis, drawing boos from the crowd and leaving him stunned that he had been too honest in a public forum. Points to Ted Cruz.
Lost in the entire financial crisis exchange was Cruz's explanation that rather than a bailout, the Fed should be a 'lender of last resort' that loans money to troubled banks at a higher rate to preserve depositor's assets. This essentially puts banks on the same footing as debtors, who have to pay a higher rate for poor credit ratings. Along with that position, Ted Cruz also advocates for returning to sound monetary policy, with a dollar supported by gold reserves.
On national security, Cruz expounded on the fact that you can have a strong national defense and pay for it at the same time. His excellent line to Rand Paul, "If you think defending this nation is expensive, try not defending it," brought down the house.
Overall, an excellent performance and showing for Ted Cruz. Many pundits pegged him as the winner, while others couldn't decide between he and Rubio as the debate's top performance. Watch for more great things from Ted Cruz as the debates begin to winnow down to fewer candidates. We will even begin to see the Princeton Debate Champion that he really is, and reveal what those of us who support him knew back before the first debates, as shown by this fan pic from before the first debate in August: