I really enjoyed last night’s New Hampshire Republican debate. I said before the debate that I thought it would change the race – I don’t think that happened. But it was a very good debate for several candidates and a bad one for others.
When I started the grading system 10 years or so ago at the old Lone Star Times, it was unique because it wasn’t based upon who “won” or “lost”, it was based upon how each candidate fared in regards to what they needed to do to advance their campaign. Other people now use the grading system but I don’t know of anyone that uses my original idea. So when you see me grading the candidates, it has nothing to do with how they did in relation to each other, just how I think they did in relation to their own campaign efforts. Without further ado, here are my grades from last night’s debate.
Chris Christie – A+: I think that Christie really helped his campaign last night. He needed to separate his campaign from Rubio and the other governors. In this, I think he succeeded quite well, especially in his attacks on Rubio. Christie came across as strong, knowledgeable, forceful, and able. I was watching the debate with an undecided female and she was drawn to his comments on pro-life, saying that it is about time someone was as concerned about children other than those in utero.
Donald Trump – A: Trump looked remarkably different than in the previous debates. He was calm, collected, and seemed to be aware that he needed to show America a different side of himself. If you were leaning Trump before this debate, he probably solidified your support. He was able to temper his populist positions with pragmatic solutions. Although other people have said that Jeb Bush got the better of him on eminent domain, I don’t think so. His Keystone pipeline answer was spot on.
Jeb Bush – A+: Let’s face it, Jeb! has a long way to go. But in terms of whether or not he helped or hurt his campaign last night, the answer is clear that he helped it. I doubt it matters much at this point but this was his best debate performance.
Ted Cruz – B: Remember, I’m not talking about the “performance” during the debate but how he helped his campaign move forward. He knows he can’t win New Hampshire so the best he could do was escape without a major mistake. And for the most part he was able to do that. It was telling that his answer to the winner of the Super Bowl was about the South Carolina primary. Carson wounded him a bit early but because Cruz stayed in the shadows for most of the night, he did the best he could in moving his campaign forward.
John Kasich – C: Although the pundits in the wrap up of the debate were quite impressed with Kasich’s performance, I don’t think New Hampshire voters were that impressed. Sure, he is the “happy guy” but honestly it seemed forced. I like Gov. Kasich and think he would make a great president but his performance last night wasn’t great. It might have helped him hold serve but it doesn’t make his campaign move forward.
Ben Carson – D: Only hardcore Carson supporters could think he helped his campaign last night. He came across as whining and small with his repeated assertions that the moderators were ignoring him. He really needs to drop out.
Marco Rubio – F: Again, remember these grades are in relation to moving your campaign forward. Rubio did nothing to help his campaign. His best moment came late in the debate when asked about pro-life, but Christie had already answered that question much better earlier. Rubio is an excellent orator but he needs to be “real” because as Christie showed last night, he tends to go with bullet points.
So that’s my grades for how the candidates did. I think the Republicans overall deserve an F for excluding Carly Fiorina from the debate.
I’ve seen some criticism of the moderators from supporters of a few candidates, specifically Martha Raddatz. I didn’t think they were unfair at all and thought Raddatz did a fair job. It was nice to see Mary Katharine Ham in the spotlight. She asked tough conservative questions, as expected. Overall, I think it was a good debate, even if not race changing.