BIG WINNER OF THE NIGHT: Ted Cruz.
He was superb, both substantively and style wise. His performance will enable him to cut significantly into the Trump and Walker bases. He gives a respectable voice to the anti-Washington establishment sentiment in the party. On Debate Night, Ted Cruz emerged as THE principle movement conservative rival to center-right Jeb Bush for the nomination. A Republican superstar, Ted Cruz, was born in Cleveland last night. No wonder his liberal professor at Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, thought so highly of him.
BIG LOSER OF THE NIGHT: Donald Trump.
Disaster night. A total meltdown. Thinned skin, unfamiliar with issues. His past caught up with him tonight – his prior support for single payer and Hillary Clinton, casino bankruptcies, and offensive comments towards Rosie O’Donnell. A celebrity, but hardly a credible presidential candidate.
MAJOR WINNER: Jeb Bush.
He will be the nominee if he holds the center-right. There are three components necessary to win any constituency: Money, organization, and message. Going into the debate, Jeb had already had the money and organizational advantage by far over all the other candidates. He had one mission last night: to communicate his MESSAGE to the center-right: That he was a successful CONSERVATIVE governor of Florida, and he can have similar success in the White House. Jeb thoroughly accomplished this mission, and he answered most effectively the questions regarding immigration and Common Core. Nobody laid a glove on Jeb in the debate.
MAJOR LOSER: Scott Walker.
He did well substantively (good line on Hillary emails), but his passionless style does not play well with his core constituency – movement conservatives. In my view, the debate will be remembered as the night Scott Walker began to lose the movement conservatives to Ted Cruz.
FINISHED: Rand Paul.
All his defects were on display, a physical appearance that is hardly presidential and a whiny voice and style that is a complete turn-off. Chris Christie decisively prevailed over him in the exchange over the Patriot Act. His libertarian supporters will unite behind Ted Cruz. It’s all over for Rand Paul.
A MIXED BAG: Chris Christie.
He certainly outfought Rand Paul, but in doing so, he graphically displayed before the entire nation the bullying style that was a major factor in his all-time low ratings in New Jersey in yesterday’s Eagleton Poll. And Huckabee prevailed over him in the exchange over entitlements. Finally, due to his “Obama hug” of 2012, which Paul did raise, he is sorely lacking in credibility when he attacks Barack Obama. As if “the hug” isn’t enough, there are those gubernatorial campaign commercials of 2009, where Christie allied himself with Obama and announced that he stood with him on the issue of renewable energy. When it comes to your relationship with Barack Obama, Chris, you can run from your past, but you can’t hide.
MAJOR WINNER – FOR THE VICE PRESIDENCY: John Kasich.
He has an excellent Ohio gubernatorial success story to sell, but Jeb has a similar Florida gubernatorial message. Jeb got into the race first and has a huge organizational and monetary advantage. Yet by performing so well, Kasich demonstrated why he would be the ideal running mate for Jeb. Florida and Ohio, Jeb and Kasich – Perfect Together!!!!
GOOD PERFORMANCES, BUT NO POLITICAL GAIN: Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson.
None of these three candidates have political bases, and there are no core GOP core constituencies with which they have any prospect of connecting.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.