In the main event, Jeb Bush finally showed some passion, especially when his brother was attacked by Trump. That exchange, to me, marked a turning point – Jeb finding his sea legs, Trump being put on his heels. John Kasich continues to impress as the more moderate and more adult person on the stage. Ben Carson is soft-spoken which helps, but some of his policies (“tithing” replacing taxing) are pretty weak. But he comes across as what he is, a smart, nice guy.
Carly Fiorina will be seen as a big winner tonight. I don’t fully agree. Clearly, a debate format works to her strengths. She is bold and strong and glib on her feet and good with a one-liner. If I was running for President she’d be someone I might want to hire as my partner to run as vice president, but someone I would fire when we won because she lacks the relevant experience.
I think we’ll begin to see the polls shift now. Trump, while his usual bombastic self in the first hour, faded back after that. His comment that Fiorina, he now thinks, has a pretty face – and the reaction it got, which was not a good reaction, hurt him.
That shift in Trump’s role in the debate also coincided with the questioners ceasing to feature him in every question. The other candidates, while I don’t agree with many of them, gave good performances, were adults and put forward their views well. Graham did it the best – after that first debate, we certainly know why he is running – to be a commander in chief who wants to beat the terrorist. He was quite clear.
But Walker, Christie, Rubio also performed better than we’ve seen.
Biggest takeaway for me: it’s the beginning of the end of Donald Trump in the race. It won’t be quick. But it will be. And who becomes the candidate is still up for grabs.