Jeb! Bush didn’t win or lose, which may be good enough for him. With his bankroll and Bush base of support (yes, there is one), he’ll have more opportunities to shine. As one pundit wrote, he was not THE adult in the room but he was one of the adults of the room – which maintains his positioning as a leader for the nomination. He did, though, not set himself apart. I’m not sure he has to at this stage in the race.
Donald Trump, for his part, hurt himself with his refusal to say he won’t run as an independent --all Republicans concede that would be the death knell for the eventual nominee (hello, Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan). Though he did begin to lay out, I think, his exit strategy: he said ruling out an independent run would blow his “leverage.” Leverage for what, I don’t know. No one is putting him on the ticket or in their Cabinet. Getting a speaking slot at the GOP convention certainly is a possibility – the ratings would soar that night. Though you never know what he’ll say, a down side.
Ben Carson looks like a decent fellow and, clearly, to be redundant, one bright brain surgeon. But leans on tithing as a way to set tax policy does not appear to be a winning strategy.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, playing to a home town crowd, did himself a lot of good and could win a spot on the ticket – certainly in someone’s Cabinet. He came across as what he is – smart, experienced, classy and adult. His answer on gay marriage was as good as it can get for someone who is trying to appeal to a pool of voters who don’t like gay marriage: He doesn’t believe in it but he respects gay men and women, would still love his daughters if it turns out one is a lesbian, and attended a gay friend’s wedding right after the Supreme Court ruling. Having it both ways? Yes, but I’m not sure his ambivalence on gay marriage is far off from a lot of people’s as folks sort through their feelings and evolve them.
Trump was Trump, which is his campaign strategy. I think that strategy has a ceiling of support, which he has probably already hit, but that’s his strength – speaking for the angry demographic in the country. Perot had that following too. Not enough to win the presidency, but enough to stop someone else from winning it.
Two other Debate Night thoughts:
1) I only got to watch about 10 minutes of the pre-debate-debate. Holding it in an empty hall seemed to be adding insult to injury to those seeming also rans. And in those 10 minutes I heard only dodging of the questions asked. I’ll accept the pundits view that Carly Fiorina stood out – albeit a low bar among that crowd. Also, the moderators were not nearly as good as…
2) The three who did the prime time debate. They kept it moving, were not bashful, sometimes seemed to be the protectors of the GOP orthodoxy (for me, not a role they should play) but they ran an effective debate with solid and direct questions. Folks may not like what Fox News stands for or Roger Ailes who runs it, but Mr. Ailes always knew how to be aggressive and his anchors showed that same trait.