The August 6, 2015 Republican debate in Cleveland, Ohio was entertaining, but not exactly inspiring. It had its moments of conflict and humor, but in the end, what did we learn substantively about the Republican field? We learned that they all want to repeal Obamacare, de-fund Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related healthcare activities (federal funding of abortion is already prohibited by law), and reject the deal with the Government of Iran to halt its nuclear program. New faces, but the same old thing, negative, negative, negative. Real quick how did each fare?
1. Kasich probably did the best. At least he showed the common sense to accept Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. But there’s a war-loving streak in him that you will see all too soon.
2. Ted Cruz despite his extreme rightwing views and supercilious attitude, didn’t miss a beat. Haughty, but fluid throughout the debate.
3. Mike Huckabee, another extreme rightwinger, managed to get his views out quite smoothly and with some humor.
4. Chris Christie, thought to be dead in the water, breathed some life into his candidacy, taking on Rand Paul effectively and otherwise giving a reasonable accounting of himself. Still there was a tinge of him re-inventing himself as a conservative and not all that convincingly.
5. Donald Trump was thin on substance, but did the right thing from the beginning as negotiator-in-chief by not promising to rule out a third party run. Had he done that, he would have forfeited his negotiating position. His answer on his bankruptcies was stellar, characterizing the losers as not very nice people. He did go too far in his answer to Megan Kelly, however, and surely turned off some voters.
6. Marco Rubio by several pundits had a very good night, maybe second or third best. But his answers were very canned and stiff and holier than thou. A baby-face who tried to memorize his way through the debate. He’s definitely a Tea Partier and does not support exceptions to abortion even for rape and incest. Not sure there’s really much intelligence there as he’s given credit for.
7. Jeb Bush seemed flat and fumbling for the most part. His answer that the Iraq war was a mistake spun off into blaming Obama for ISIS. He took it as a burden to call families who had lost soldiers in the war, as plain a display of self-centered elitist mindset as you’ll see.
8. Rand Paul scored a few points, but looked rather wobbly even on the attack against Christie and Trump.
9. Scott Walker really looked uncomfortable and unsure of himself, nodding robotically at anything Ben Carsons said. The opposite of how he looked at CPAC.
10. Ben Carsons was smug and completely out of his depth. Probably won’t see him again on the stage.
The term wasn’t used in the debate, but the neo-conservatives are alive and well in the Republican Party. The monolithic rejection of health care reform and diplomacy prove it.