For Democrats, it was who was going to be the lesser of 10 evils. For the Republicans however, it was who could strike the first blow and knock Donald Trump off of his proverbial “high horse”.
That was the tenor of the first Republican debate of the presidential season held on August 6th in downtown Cleveland inside Quicken Loans Arena. With Trump striking the first blow out of the gate saying he may run as an independent if he does not get the Republican nod (must be nice to be a billionaire). This is just how the debate kicked off, so you knew some fireworks were in store the rest of the way.
In every Presidential Primary you will have your front-runners, your also-rans and your never-weres. This first debate really separated them into those three groups. I will break down those groups for you, just so you have an idea of who’s who in the Republican Primary.
So for the Republicans here’s who you really need to know about:
FRONT-RUNNERS: Donald Trump – Billionaire Businessman; Jeb Bush – Former Governor of Florida and Brother to George W. Bush; Marco Rubio – Senator from Florida; Scott Walker – Current Governor of Wisconsin
ALSO-RANS: Rand Paul- Senator from Kentucky; John Kasich – Governor of Ohio; Chris Christie – Current Governor of New Jersey
NEVER WERES: Ted Cruz – Senator from Texas; Mike Huckabee – Former Governor of Arkansas; Ben Carson – Author and Political Pundit; Lindsey Graham – Senator from South Carolina; Bobby Jindal – Current Governor of Louisiana
Now don’t get me wrong, a couple of those also-rans (John Kasich and Chris Christie) can move up into the Front-Runners category, but it will take a strong showing in these debates. That being said, I have to hand it to Kasich as he kicked some serious proverbial butt for the Republicans and if you didn’t know who this Governor of a key swing state in Ohio was, you certainly do now. But he does have a ton of work to do before he can be considered a serious threat to the crown.
Kasich did it by using a simple yet effective message, “Lift everybody, unite everybody, and build a stronger United States of America again. It will be, it can be done. We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have.”
Ironically, it was the assumed Republican front-runner, Jeb Bush, who looked a little out of sorts on this night. While he technically didn’t make any blunders, he left one political commentator saying “He seemed a little pale, a little flat”. Bush did stumble on having to answer for his brother’s invasion of Iraq. When it came to immigration reform, where he could have made huge in-roads, especially standing next to Donald Trump, he just wasn’t forceful enough. Of course, Bush has always been more moderate on his stance on immigration than most Republicans.
But don’t think that for a second he was going to be soft on The Donald either saying, “Mr. Trump’s language is divisive. We’re not going to win by doing what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do every day – dividing the country.”
Trump of course, had his own ideas about things. Going so far as to even say “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.” I think his campaign people may want to tell him that immigration has been a hot-button issue in presidential campaigns for years.
Only Scott Walker had the balls to bring up Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal saying “Probably the Russian and Chinese governments know more about Hilary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the U.S. Congress.”
Rand Paul and Chris Christie also got into it over the Patriot Act, laws giving the Feds access to Americans’ phone records and other personal liberties that Paul sees as slowly disappearing, saying he wanted to collect info from terrorists, not law-abiding American citizens.
Christie quickly responded “Listen, senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that.”
Christie was not the only target for Paul on the night, as he also took a shot at Trump about the possibility of him running as an Independent if he doesn’t get the Republican nod saying “He’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”
Marco Rubio, who is trying his best to carve out his own niche in this election, did his best to discount Trumps appearance there by saying it shouldn’t be a “resume competition” and that “This election better be about the future, not the past,”
While the candidates not only pitched their ideas for the future and how things should be run, they also all made sure that people knew why they would be the best suited to take down Hillary Clinton in the general election. That is not to say, it is a foregone conclusion that she will get the Democratic nod, but it is starting to look that way.
Of course Clinton, who was in Los Angeles during the debate, just said she was left in a “state of disbelief” by what the Republicans are both saying and doing as they prep to make a run at The White House.
So what does all of this mean? To be honest with you, at this early date, not a whole hell of a lot. There is still plenty of time for some to emerge and for other to make a Howard Dean-esque faux pas and knock themselves from the race.
But I will say that the biggest hope for Bush, Rubio, Walker et al is for Trump to make that mistake. From the way he talks, it should only be a matter of time. Then again, it has never stopped him in the past.