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Post-Debate Post-Mortem: TIS columnists discuss FOX News GOP presidential debate

Fox News Debate

The following conversation took place Friday afternoon in a nondescript coffee shop, somewhere in Central Iowa. The opinions expressed herein are those of the participants, not necessarily The Iowa Statesman.

 

•  •  •

Bob IconBob Eschliman — Editor, The Iowa Statesman

Whenever there is a presidential debate, myself, Krusty, and Jon are going to forego our regular columns to take part in a discussion of the debate.

So, the first official Republican presidential debate was just held last night. There have been a wide range of opinions about it, so I thought I would pick each of your brains about it.

Let’s start with the big headline. I think the debate was a hot mess, from start to finish, and millions of mainline conservatives finally got to see FOX News’ true colors. Krusty, how about you?

 

 

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative — Dictator of the Iowa Blogosphere

Yeah, it was a big steaming pile of crap, and once again, Donald Trump stole the show — figuratively and literally. Is there one thing we learned about any of the candidates from that disaster?

 

 

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist — On the Front Lines of the Culture War

Well, we learned the Bottom Seven, except for Carly Fiorina, are there for a reason. She’s probably there for an entirely different reason, and we can talk about that in a minute, but she clearly outclassed the others on stage during the Happy Hour Debate.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Yeah, but the RNC and FOX made sure there wasn’t any energy in that arena by keeping everyone except immediate family and staffers out. You can’t tell me they’re not picking and choosing winners, or otherwise influencing the primary race, when they pull shenanigans like that. Reince Priebus and Roger Ailes owe the rest of the world an apology there.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

But even if there wasn’t an audience, it’s up to the candidates to project an enthusiastic message. It’s like someone slipped them all — except Fiorina — sedatives. The Two Ricks, Perry and Santorum, needed to turn things around last night, and it just didn’t happen.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Even with the audience in the room, which was decidedly pro-Kasich — go figure in Ohio — it seemed like the only time there was any energy was when someone was attacking one of the other candidates. The 11th Commandment went flying out the window at the very first question from Bret Baier.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

That “raise your hand” question set the wrong tone for the entire debate. It was a fair question, but Baier shouldn’t have come right out of the gate with it. All three moderators clearly had an agenda to whack Trump. He held his own for the most part, but you could tell it wore on him by the end.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

They also had an agenda to marginalize the candidates that appeal most to Christians. Cruz, Carson, and Huckabee all seemed to go long periods between questions while Christie and Kasich seemed to be in every rotation.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

So, you both think there was some sort of collusion between the Establishment — the RNC — and FOX News?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Absolutely.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

I don’t think. I know. The Establishment doesn’t care what you or I think, because they assume we’re just going to vote for whatever RINO they trot out in front of us.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

  1. So, who were the big winners? I’m not saying these are the folks everyone is going to suddenly flock to, but I think it really comes down to Carly Fiorina in the Happy Hour Debate and Chris Christie in the Main Event. They both did themselves big favors, with some help from their friends at Fox.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Fiorina definitely won the B-Team debate, but I’m not too sure anyone really won that A-Team event. As we learned four years ago, exploiting 9-11 doesn’t help a Republican — just ask President Giuliani. Chris Christie’s biggest moments were when he kept injecting himself into the events surrounding 9-11. Rand Paul hammered him hard, although not too skillfully, for doing so — and rightfully so.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Rand Paul gave his supporters, who haven’t had a whole lot to cheer about lately, something to celebrate last night. But, then he went right back to telling us about the latest poll that supposedly shows him beating Hillary. We all know she’s not going to be the nominee on the other side, and that’s not going to win over anyone who isn’t already in his camp. I agree with Krusty, though. I don’t think anyone really won that debate, and it’s really difficult to call that a debate.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

If there weren’t any winners, who were the big losers, then? Obviously, Jeb Bush was not on his game.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

He has any game?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Well, you don’t win multiple terms in a Purple State without some kind of game. But, you’re both right, Jeb Bush clearly looked like the guy who was way past his prime last night. He seemed confused, overwhelmed, and just plain uncomfortable up there.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

As Bob said before, in the Kiddie Table event, the Two Ricks needed big nights and neither of them got them. They’re both sinking fast. In the main event, Rand Paul seemed to be attacking everyone else in the hope of getting the audience’s attention. He got it, alright, but probably not the way he intended. He came off as arrogant one minute and petulant the next.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

And, once again, he avoided answering a direct question about an important social issue. For a guy who’s trying to sell himself to everyone else as a Christian, every dodged question is a red flag to those of us who know what “you shall know them by their fruits” really means.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

The moderators took a beating on social media — especially Twitter — last night. They even got a healthy dose of fratricide from Todd Starnes, who took a not-so-gentle swipe at Megyn Kelly this morning on “FOX and Friends.” Is the criticism deserved, or are we seeing another case of slappies just getting their knickers out of joint?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Look, the questions would have been fair game on any one of their individual shows, but in a debate, the moderator’s job is to act as the referee, not a participant. The best referees are meant to be seen and heard from rarely.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

I think Starnes hit the nail on the head. Megyn Kelly exposed herself for the progressive those of us who have dealt with her in the past know her to be. She’s pro-abortion, at least semi-soft on marriage, and she’s a dyed-in-the-wool feminist. Wallace could’ve handled those duties without Ken and Barbie sitting next to him.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Having been on “Special Report” before, and seeing Bret Baier up close behind the scenes, I have to say I think he’s genuine. There’s nothing phony about him. I was shocked that they came out with the party loyalty question right out of the box, and I just wonder if that wasn’t an RNC requirement.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Probably.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Do you think the moderators drew straws to see who was going to have to ask it?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

(Laughing) Yeah, I could see that.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Wallace was probably saying to Roger Ailes, “If you make me ask that question, I’ll walk, even if it means I have to do ’60 Minutes’ for the rest of my life, like my old man.”

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

So, our good friend, Steve Deace …

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Your good friend.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

My friend, too!

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Fair enough. Anyway, he’s saying there are going to be three sub-primaries taking place during this nomination race: Establishment, Conservative/Libertarian, and The Outsiders. I can see that. Do you guys agree?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Definitely. Certainly no more than four make it all the way back to Ohio for the convention.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

I pity the poor fools who are going to be there as delegates. Yikes. But, yeah, for once, the blowhard is right. There are definitely three factions at play for the nomination: Establishment, True Conservatives, and the Silent Majority. I’d put my money on the Silent Majority right about now.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

So, if we had to base it on their current positions, post-debate, who do you think those three are going to be?

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Establishment — Chris Christie.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

You’re agreeing with Deace again.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Shut up. True Conservative — Ted Cruz. Silent Majority — Donald Trump.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Jon?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

The more I think about it, the more I think it’s going to be a four-way race. Establishment will be Bush, Conservative will be Cruz, then you’ll have Rand Paul and Donald Trump.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I’m going to stick with three. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Walker wins the Establishment. I think he’s way too eager to get in good with them, and it’s going to pay off. The worst thing anyone has been able to come up with is he’s got $10,000 outstanding on a credit card.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

And you want a guy like that running the U.S. economy?

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I didn’t say that. I just think he’s positioning himself to be the Establishment champion. For the conservatives, I see a coalescing happening behind the scenes that somehow isn’t showing up in the polling to-date. Ted Cruz is going to be their guy.

As for the outsiders, I just don’t see how Carson or Fiorina can possibly eat into Trump’s lead there. And he’s self-funding, so he doesn’t have to worry about making a bunch of megadonors happy. The irony there is that he’s the Establishment’s dream candidate.

So, any final thoughts?

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

I hope CNN was taking notes on how not to run a debate.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

I hope the candidates were taking notes, too. They need to be ready to go the full 12 rounds next time.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Well, that does it for our first of many post-debate post-mortems. We hope you found it enlightening.