GOP December 2015 debate: Another view

See also: Here's the Rundown on Last Night's Republican Debate

The debate was much stronger for everyone – except perhaps for Trump.

The CNN moderators did not become the story, so that’s positive.

The main storyline is that they attacked each other appropriately, I believe, but they always brought the discussion back to Obama-Hillary.  This circle back to the Dems was smart, very smart.

Now let’s take the candidates in alphabetical order.

Bush: He was much stronger than he was in last debate, not quite as meek, mild, and mousy.  He went on the attack against Trump.  “You can’t insult your way to the presidency.”  And the president can’t get his ideas from TV.  “I don’t know if it’s from Saturday or Sunday morning.”  We need a “commander-in-chief, not an agitator-in-chief.”  Trump seemed to be put off balance with those remarks.  Jeb was strong on the terror threat.  “We need to destroy ISIS.”  Obama leads from behind, and this has created a vacuum – again back to Obama.  As for immigration, he said the standard: secure borders, and Obama has not done anything because he wants to create a wedge issue.  If he (improbably) became the nominee, I would gladly vote for him.

Carson: He was at first befuddled (and pious), but then he got warmed up.  He first complained a little about his time to speak.  That was out of place.  He was very strong on defense.  He wants Congress to declare war on ISIS, though usually they pass a resolution.  We need to destroy the caliphate and cut off the supply lines.  We need boots on the ground.  Despite his strong rhetoric, his career preparation in a discussion about national defense and the war on terror is inadequate.  I still can’t see him winning the nomination.  He still comes across as nice but unqualified.

Christie: He deserved to be in the major debate.  His main theme about himself was that he was a federal prosecutor who kept N.J. safe.  He was an executive, unlike Cruz and Rubio, who spent too much time arguing between themselves, Christie believed, so he stepped in and talked about his experience, not about the details of a bill.  How is that leadership, he was saying.  His belief that he can win the nomination is strong, but he won’t win it.  Other candidates take away his delegate votes.

Cruz: He still has his cocked up eyebrows, which make him seem pious in a bad way, and his high, tinny voice is a detriment that no one else has.  But he is a strong debater.  He took over the conversation many times and wouldn’t let the moderators shut him down.  His explanation about his vote against the Defense Authorization bill – because it detained American citizens – will have to be fact-checked.  He wants to carpet-bomb ISIS, but not the capital or major cities.  That doesn’t make sense.  He was called out for not criticizing Trump in public, though he did so in private.  His explanation was lame: the people will vote during the primaries and decide.  If he can’t see that Trump won’t be the nominee but is playing all sides anyway, then this is not a profile in courage.  Maybe regular people – not the pundits and political junkies – will see that we already got his home state in the electoral votes.  We need other states.  It’s my belief that his unlikeable personality would lose against Hillary.

Fiorina: Articulate, as usual, but her CEO experience during a debate about defense and the war on terror seemed out of place.  It’s clear to me at least that her outsider experience hurts her.  I still say it’s not “Washington” or the “Big Bad Establishment” that are the problem, but Obama is.  He’s the one who has gummed up the whole works.  At least she circled around to that.  Nonetheless, it amazes me that a person who got kicked out of HP would run for the Senate in California (not in a conservative congressional district), lose big (by double digits), move to Virginia (no ground game), and then run for president.  Chutzpah.  Maybe she wants a top spot in the gigantic bureaucracy.  Ma’am, please drop out.

Kasich: He too was much stronger.  Destroy ISIS with a coalition as we did in the First Gulf War.  Punch Iran in the nose.  In metadata collection, err on the side of too much, not too little.  Solve the encryption problem.  On the Bible issue, lead with the heart and head.  Vetting problem with the Central American miners – Obama’s and vetting process’s fault.  His close about Ohio and its economy was a good idea.  Unfortunately, his appearance and gestures and facial gestures seem distracting – and the selfie vote matters.  He said in his close that we need Ohio.  Maybe he’ll campaign with the nominee, because he won’t be.

Paul: He’s a strong debater.  I can see why he won the Kentucky Senate.  But his semi-isolationism may not quite read the world accurately.  His attacks on Rubio and Trump were strong, but what’s the point?  He’s out of touch with where America is on the war on terror – certainly he’s out of touch with the primary voters.  Variations of evil on both sides?  Really?

Rubio: Strong, as usual.  It’s my belief that he will be the nominee.  He’ll do all right in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’ll win Florida.  And then Jeb will campaign for him.  Like it or not, at this time in our nation’s history, we need a native Spanish speaker – which Cruz is not, at least not fluently – to explain to millions why conservative politics is best.

Trump: It’s clear to everyone but his devoted followers that he’s not qualified to be president.  But “people like me.”  He was an easy target for most of the candidates (except Cruz, notably).  He rambles.  Was it four trillion?  Three trillion?  He seems strong on defense, smashing ISIS, killing their families, but then we shouldn’t get involved in the Middle East.  He wishes he had the trillions to build roads and bridges – and no doubt the great big wall.  His closing statement about being behind in every area doesn’t inspire confidence.  He seemed to lose his temper, and he was rightly questioned about his temperament.  He won’t win the nomination, but he will create confusion.  At least he said he won’t go independent.  But he has no personal guardrails, so who knows?

It’s been observed many times that our candidates are infinitely more qualified than Hillary.  That’s true.  All we need now is for candidates to drop out – I’m looking at you, Paul, Fiorina, and Carson, and for minimal confusion in November 2016, Trump needs to bow out, but he won’t.

James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People, which is updated almost daily and where he has posted articles about Cruz, Carson, and Trump.