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Neutral Observers: Trump Suffered In Debate, Fiorina Shined

Neutral Observers: Trump Suffered In Debate, Fiorina Shined
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Friday, 07 August 2015 10:31 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Donald Trump suffered the most in the Fox News debate Thursday night, but it is unclear for now how much ground he might have lost or which of the other nine Republican presidential hopefuls gained from their nationally-televised confrontation.

That was the consensus of a group of political experts — pundits, academics, and Republican political consultants — who spoke to Newsmax shortly after the close of the two-hour conclave in Cleveland.

Moreover, in a surprising development, several in the group concluded that businesswoman Carly Fiorina should be included in the next "main event" of major GOP contenders. Fiorina, they felt, scored well in the so-called "happy hour debate" of seven lower-tier contenders that Fox hosted earlier in the evening.

The common denominator of our group of debate-watchers was that all were neutral in the race and were neither aligned with nor committed to any candidate before or after the debate.

"Trump's refusal to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee was a big gamble on his part," Jon Fleischmann, editor of the much-read Flash Report newsletter on California politics, told Newsmax.

"For party loyalists that is treason. But to the extent he was trying to stand out — he sure did with that answer."

"Donald Trump's biggest error was not accepting the pledge to not run as a third party candidate," said Republican consultant Ford O'Connell. "He was bombastic and entertaining right from the start, and skirted questions like a lifelong politician in a tight, controlled setting."

As to who gained, O'Connell told Newsmax: "Jeb Bush and Scott Walker played it safe and largely underwhelmed. Marco Rubio was the winner. Whether Rubio gets a bump in the polls is open for debate. [Mike] Huckabee, [Chris] Christie and [John] Kasich also shined."

Historian David Pietrusza, whose latest book on presidential election years, "1932," will be published in October, also pointed to Trump's flat refusal to rule out a third-party run and dubbed it "the most dramatic moment in the evening's opening seconds."

"Everything else was simply anti-climax," said Pietrusza. "Trump is holding a gun to the head of the Republican Party. Is it 'The Art of the Deal' or simply the 'The Art of the Jerk?' The other candidates cannot discipline Trump. That's the voters' task."

Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist and columnist for the Detroit News, also pointed to Trump's keeping the door open to a third-party race and told us "this will only highlight how much more serious the governors are than Trump in fixing problems."

Payne said he felt "the post-debate momentum will likely favor the governors — Scott Walker [Wisconsin], Jeb Bush [Florida], and John Kasich [Ohio], and Carly Fiorina."

Their answers, according to Payne, "were the most substantive as they detailed how they would turn the country around economically."

Other debate-watchers who spoke to Newsmax, while agreeing that this was not a stellar performance for Trump, also concluded that he did not inflict enough wounds on himself to hurt his own following.

"Was he rambling or just being himself?" Ovide Lamontagne, past two-time Republican nominee for governor of New Hampshire and now counsel to Americans United for Life, told us. "If you are the front-runner, 'first do no harm.' In the end, he didn't inflict any mortal wounds on himself."

On who gained, Lamontagne believes "that's difficult to say. Probably Kasich — home field advantage and nowhere to go but up."

LaMontagne’s take on Trump was echoed by veteran Republican consultant Marc Rotterman, who also is not aligned with any candidate.

"In regard to Mr. Trump, I thought Fox had an agenda to take him out," Rotterman told Newsmax. "I thought [debate moderator] Megyn Kelly's first question [about Trump once calling women "disgusting animals"] was a cheap shot and it was fairly effective, but Trump will survive."

He added that continued hostile treatment of the tycoon developer at future candidates’ forums "may also push him to consider running as a third party [candidate]."

Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register, also referred to the question by Fox's Kelly and Trump's attempt to laugh it off.

"But you heard the audience — his supporters loved it," she told us. "All the other candidates competing to be the biggest critic of the establishment had a hard time topping him. He took the most flak but he didn't come out a loser."

Several predicted that the next "top 10" Republicans will include a new addition: Fiorina, who got rave reviews from several of our observers for her performance in the earlier debate. Her addition to the next main debate would mean the replacement of one of the 10 on the stage in Cleveland on Thursday.

"I'd include Carly Fiorina in the winner's circle," said Obradovich. "She deserved the buzz from the junior varsity debate."

O'Connell agreed: "One person [those] on the stage should be looking over their shoulder at in the next debate — Carly Fiorina."

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Donald Trump suffered the most in the Fox News debate Thursday night, but it is unclear for now how much ground he might have lost or which of the other nine Republican presidential hopefuls gained from their nationally-televised confrontation.
carly fiorina, donald trump, GOP debate
Friday, 07 August 2015 10:31 AM
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