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TIS columnists break down CNN’s GOP presidential debates

CNN GOP Prime Time Debate

The following conversation took place Wednesday night in a nondescript social media chat, somewhere in Central Iowa. The opinions expressed herein are those of the participants, not necessarily The Iowa Statesman.

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Bob IconBob Eschliman — Editor, The Iowa Statesman

OK, so it’s been a few weeks since the last time we did one of these. But, unlike the first time, let’s take a couple minutes to discuss the … what are we calling it?

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative — Dictator of the Iowa Blogosphere

Let’s just call it what it is, the losers’ debate.

 

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

Oh, come on. We can come up with something better than that. Let’s just call it the pre-debate debate.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I think I’m with Krusty on this one. Prior to the start, I said I didn’t think any of those four belonged in the race anymore. Did anything happen tonight that changed that in either of your opinions?

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Not really. Santorum and Jindal were the strongest, but they likely would’ve been ignored in the real debate tonight.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

I agree. I think Santorum won the first 45 minutes. Jindal came on strong at the finish and won the second.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

That’s how I saw it, too. But, I didn’t really feel like one or the other really did anything to substantially improve their outlook moving forward.

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Even if they tripled their support, three times zero is still zero.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

I wouldn’t exactly word it that way, but I agree. They’re definitely not going to move up, even with pretty solid performances tonight.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

How much longer can any of them justify staying in the race?

 

Krusty IconKrusty Konservative

Until their money runs out. And, if you believe the rumors out there, it could be a while, especially for Graham and Pataki.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Santorum knows how to squeeze every mile out of a plug nickel from 2012, but even after 99 counties here in Iowa, he’s just not resonating with the electorate.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

That’s enough about the first session. Let’s talk about the main event. It seemed to me, in both debates tonight, but particularly in the second, that the inmates were running the asylum, so to speak.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Agreed.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

I swore at one point if Carly Fiorina interrupted someone else’s answer one more time, I was going to put my foot through my TV.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

She wasn’t the only one doing that, to be fair. I think the format, with that many candidates, kind of lent itself to that kind of atmosphere. There were too many alphas, not enough airtime, even with the debate running an extra hour.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Jake Tapper might be a good journalist, but he has no clue how to moderate a debate. It was chaotic and at times, difficult to follow.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

The questions were fair, though, although I wish they didn’t all start off with “So, Donald Trump said …”

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

They weren’t all that way, but it sure seemed like it for a while. So, the debate was a mess, but not as bad as the FOX News debate. Who do you think won?

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Fiorina, Cruz, Christie, and Rubio all had really good nights. No clear winner, though.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

I disagree. I think Cruz walked away with it. Fiorina was trying too hard. Christie and Rubio helped themselves, as did Huckabee, but not enough to really move up much.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

I think Bush is doomed now.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Agreed.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

That was going to be my next question. I think most of the field did fairly well at times, but I think Cruz and Fiorina were consistently good. I also agree that Bush bombed again. Did anyone else take a hit tonight?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Trump definitely fumbled a couple of times. Walker seemed like a fish out of water tonight.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Yeah, the Trump people aren’t going to give a damn about his “fumbles.” They likely saw the line of questioning as attacking, again, and probably put up the defenses. Walker is toast, but I was pretty turned off by Carson tonight, too. He’s a little too milquetoast up there, and not presidential at all.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

For the first time, I saw Cruz take a hit over his record — the John Roberts endorsement — and it just seemed a little disingenuous to me. He wrote a piece for National Review in 2005 where he fully endorsed Roberts for the Supreme Court, now he says he regrets it. That’s real easy to do with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight; it doesn’t change what you did or said.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Walker’s keeping up the lie that he defunded Planned Parenthood, and that’s going to come back to bite him hard. I heard your buddy, [Steve] Deace, talked about it last night on his show. I’m just surprised the Wisconsin media hasn’t jumped all over it, yet.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

That would shoot down their narrative — that he’s an evil conservative who hates women — wouldn’t it?

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Whoever told him to say that should be fired.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

For once, we seemed to get a full-spectrum view of the candidates. Who won on the social issues?

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Nobody.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Cruz and Huckabee.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I thought Fiorina had a very powerful moment, talking about Iran and Planned Parenthood.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Yes, but in light of her position statements on those issues, it almost comes across as pandering.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

And how many CNN viewers do you suspect actually know her positions on social issues?

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

Good point. So, what about national defense and foreign policy? Any big winner?

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Rubio and Cruz came off knowledgeable. Trump actually sounded reasonable. The rest kind of meandered. Paul sealed the lid on his campaign’s coffin here, though.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Yeah. Paul is probably almost done. I don’t even want to know how in debt he’s going to be to the Kentucky GOP by the time this all done.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

I think his ego will keep him in through Kentucky, but it’s going to be ugly.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I agree Rubio sounded good — and Cruz, too — but I thought Huckabee’s “you don’t know what you don’t know” comment was a disaster.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

If it’s true that he’s having money troubles, he could be one of the next to leave.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I’m not so sure about that. He’s got a lot of Iowa infrastructure that isn’t costing him very much to maintain. A strong showing on Caucus Night could put him back in the race.

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Not if he’s completely dead-ass broke. Look where it got Perry.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

So, who will be the next to drop out?

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Christie.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

Paul and Christie.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I think it’s going to be Paul, Christie, and/or Walker. Any final thoughts?

 

Krusty IconKrusty the Konservative

Awesome venue. Better debate, but still a lot of improvement to be made. The RNC completely owns this disaster now.

 

Jon IconJon the Southern Baptist

The conservatives need to figure out their champion now, or we’re looking at President Trump in January of 2017.

 

Bob IconBob Eschliman

I don’t think the Establishment will allow that to happen, and I shudder to think just how far they would be willing to go to ensure it doesn’t. I agree that conservatives need to find a champion, but what if none of these guys — and gal — are the right one? That’s a rhetorical question — just something to think about.

Well, folks. Thanks for reading. Catch you again after the next debate.