Tags: cruz | debate | rubio | fiorina

Rubio, Cruz, Moderators Win Big

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Wednesday, 11 Nov 2015 10:10 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were almost universally judged the big winners Tuesday night by a group of neutral observers who spoke to me shortly after the fourth and latest televised forum concluded in Milwaukee.

They almost unanimously put Carly Fiorina in the winner’s circle with Rubio and Cruz. Their praise of the California businesswoman’s performance on stage Tuesday was in sharp contrast to the widespread panning she drew after the last debate in October.

“Cruz and Rubio built on their previous strong performances at [the last debate in] Boulder,” historian David Pietrusza, author of four acclaimed books on presidential election years, told me, “They are born pros. It showed tonight, though neither unleashed the spectacular moments both had in Colorado.

After what Pietrusza called “a mysteriously lackluster Boulder showing,” Fiorina “rebounded strongly to the level of her earlier star debate presentations — perhaps, even higher,” he said.

As for the remaining contenders, Pietrusza said that “Jeb Bush needed to put some points on the board. As usual, he didn't. Rand Paul clearly enjoyed his best night of the season, although his anti-military stance will probably impede any great bump for him. Ben Carson moved along on little cat feet in his usual steady way. And Trump looked tired. Rallies, tweets, and ‘Saturday Night Live’ are his media, not debates.”

GOP consultant Ford O’Connell agreed. Rubio “was without question the most substantive while looking presidential. I suspect this will help Rubio gain greater ‘insider’ traction. Cruz was the runner-up and Fiorina also had a solid night.”

He added that “Trump and Bush didn’t help their causes, but in Trump’s case I am not sure it matters.”

Both Pietrusza and O’Connell agreed that it was a bad night for John Kasich, with O’Connell concluding the Ohio governor “is about five minutes from no longer being on the main stage in the next debate.”

Pietrusza said “the ‘Jon Huntsman Most Annoying Republican Award’ has not only been renamed the ‘John Kasich Award,’ it has been retired and will be permanently housed in Cleveland."

“Of the candidates that I’d consider establishment-friendly, Rubio had a particularly good night,” according to Kathie Obradovich, political writer for the “Des Moines Register,” “He was able to clearly describe the transformation of the economy in a way that highlighted himself as a new-generation leader.

"He withstood an attack from Rand Paul on his expanded child tax credit and increased military spending. However, he might have benefited from the opportunity to shut down questions about his personal financial history.”

Obradovich also told me that “in the conservative/outsider lane, Ted Cruz had another strong showing. After Bush and Kasich tried to gang up on Donald Trump on deportation of illegal immigrants, Cruz played successfully to conservatives by arguing that Republicans will lose if they blur the distinction with Democrats.

“Carly Fiorina continued to show she’s a nimble debater but she has so failed to capitalize on that.”

Of the other contenders, Obradovich felt “Jeb Bush’s performance, once again, was just fine – and mostly forgettable. John Kasich’s almost manic interruptions won him more time, but at the cost of making himself an irritant. It seems unlikely, however, that either Carson or Trump gave up significant ground to those hoping to knock them off their perch at the top of the polls.”

Prof. G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College (Penn.), widely regarded as Pennsylvania’s premier pollster, hailed the Milwaukee conclave as “by far the most substantive debate. There was less acrimony and Trump much more passive. The best exchange on foreign policy was between Rubio and Paul, with Rubio for a muscular policy and Paul showing his libertarian credentials, and Cruz in the middle.”

Cruz and Rubio, Madonna told me “turned in very solid performances. Rand Paul had his best debate, but not likely to do much with it. Bush did better, but had no breakout moment. Kasich might do better in the Democratic contest.”

“Tonight Marco became the establishment pick, usurping Jeb who was uninspiring and robotic,” predicted veteran North Carolina GOP consultant Marc Rotterman, “He took complex questions and gave answers that Main Street could understand. He walked a line that endeared him to the establishment but doesn't offend the base and also made a good case for generational change.”

“And Jeb doubled down on amnesty, which once again shows his lack of understanding of the base. Watch Bush donors switch to Rubio.”

“Cruz also had a very big night,” according to Rotterman, “He scored big on securing the border and standing with American workers. My view at the end of the day it will come to Cruz and Rubio.”

Trump, he felt, “was passive and Carson was steady.” But, like the other observers, Rotterman’s harshest review was reserved for Kasich, whom he characterized as “looking desperate, struggling to be relevant, and at times, downright rude. He may be next to depart the race.”

Rotterman also seemed to speak for the entire panel of observers when he told me “the big winners all three Fox Business News moderators.” Contrasting this panel with that in the last debate moderated by CNBC, the North Carolinian said “they asked good thoughtful questions and they never overshadowed the candidates.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.











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Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were almost universally judged the big winners Tuesday night by a group of neutral observers who spoke to me shortly after the fourth and latest televised forum concluded in Milwaukee.
cruz, debate, rubio, fiorina
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2015-10-11
Wednesday, 11 Nov 2015 10:10 AM
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