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First GOP Debate: Winners and Losers

I have waited several days to see how the aftermath of the first 2016 Republican Debate would play out following the explosive confrontations between Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and front-runner Donald Trump. After watching what is happening in the news media and on social media, the biggest winners seem to be the candidates who appeared in the 5pm “early” debate broadcast.

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From the onset of the debate, the knives were out with numerous “attack” questions aimed at Donald Trump. It seem unending and I was very surprised that the moderators would drive this so quickly. Some of them were valid questions, though the intensity with which they were asked seemed over the top. If I was a candidate on stage not named Trump, I’d be asking myself why I was there for the first 45 minutes.

Unfortunately the biggest story to come away from the 9pm prime-time debate was about the moderators which, in my opinion, indicates a failure to conduct a professional debate. Compare this to the 5pm debate, which was almost based on substance and policy questions, the difference is striking.

What also struck me was the disproportionate amount of time allotted to candidates. Governor Scott Walker was the third place spot yet took less than half the time of the front-runner. Beyond that, Senator Rand Paul received even less and barely fielded any questions.


(Image from the New York Times)

On top of that, the moderator questions took up about 38 minutes which means each moderator received over 12 minutes of speaking time. That is the result of many “lecture-style” questions where the answer may be “yes” or “no,” but the question is two pages long. Again, we learned more about the moderators from those exchanges than we did the candidates.

In total, if I had to pick some winners from the prime-time hour, I’d say that Dr. Ben Carson shined and likely had some of the best lines of the night. Others, such as Scott Walker, made it through unscathed for the most part. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finally came to life in the campaign and probably helped himself in the sparring with Senator Rand Paul. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush did alright, though his performance is being described as “lackluster” and I think that’s an accurate term. Donald Trump may have gotten away with a boost since the sparring with moderators overshadowed some of his question-dodging and poorly conceived answers.

This debate, if you can use that term, was all about the moderators, and not about the candidates. For two hours of air time, I learned little about the candidates since their answers were often overshadowed by the questions.

In conclusion, I’d like to see CNN provide a better, more professional tone in the next Republican debate on September 16.

Agree or disagree, tell me what you think.

Nate Ashworth :Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

View Comments (18)

  • I agree completely. Fox chose the candidates they wanted (including AVOIDING the newest Wall Street Journal poll). AND attacked some candidates, while lofting softballs to others. ["Fair and balanced," my *ass!]

    It's clear they were "out to get" Trump. All of the questions to him were mean and rude. AND they even asked several other candidates about Trump, instead of about their own campaign issues. A very biased and unprofessional program.

    However, as I predicted, despite the visceral attacks on him, Trump came out mostly unscathed, according to the polls:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/new-nbc-news-survey-monkey-poll-donald-trump-still-lead-n406766

    According to MediaIte, people start petition to ban Megyn Kelly from the debates:

    http://www.mediaite.com/online/people-are-so-angry-with-megyn-kelly-they-started-petition-to-remove-her-from-debates/

    More than 3,000 have already signed (from link above):

    Dears News Corps.,

    Megyn Kelly apparently finds the state of our union amusing and
    “fun”, whereas the viewers (our fellow citizens) deserve a much more
    serious moderator.

    In addition, she had a clear agenda to attack Donald Trump, by
    tenaciously clinging to his past rather than his vision for the future.
    She focused on Trump personally, rather than politically. Ultimately,
    she did not not live up to the “fair and balanced” slogan at Fox News
    and News Corporation.

    While her disdain for Mr. Trump was evident, this peititon is a call
    for truly fair and balanced coverage of ALL candidates. Thus, Megyn
    Kelly should be barred from hosting or moderating all future Republican
    Presidential Debates.

    Please support this position by signing it as well as adding your
    reasons to bar Megyn Kelly from hosting or moderating any future
    Republican Debates (she is better of hosting a ?D?emocratic ?D?ebate at
    this unprofessional level).

    More than 3,000 have already signed it:

    Dears News Corps.,

    Megyn Kelly apparently finds the state of our union amusing and
    “fun”, whereas the viewers (our fellow citizens) deserve a much more
    serious moderator.

    In addition, she had a clear agenda to attack Donald Trump, by
    tenaciously clinging to his past rather than his vision for the future.
    She focused on Trump personally, rather than politically. Ultimately,
    she did not not live up to the “fair and balanced” slogan at Fox News
    and News Corporation.

    While her disdain for Mr. Trump was evident, this peititon is a call
    for truly fair and balanced coverage of ALL candidates. Thus, Megyn
    Kelly should be barred from hosting or moderating all future Republican
    Presidential Debates.

    Please support this position by signing it as well as adding your
    reasons to bar Megyn Kelly from hosting or moderating any future
    Republican Debates (she is better of hosting a ?D?emocratic ?D?ebate at
    this unprofessional level).

    • How FK'g dumb are you people ??? Kelly and the other two (Wallace & Baier) threw everyone softballs. The fact is Trump showed how thin skinned he really is. The MSM is already trashing him. Reality is if Trump is ever in a debate controlled by MSM they will push him over hot coals barefoot and rip him to shreds - right or wrong.

      Most of the 24 million + 6 million that watched had never heard of half of the candidates, because the MSM will never talk about them, just like they never kick die hündin's ass because she must be protected at all costs. The moderators were explaining the questions for benefit of who was watching.

      • No. EVERY question to Trump was rude. Like when they asked Trump about a few of his ventures going bankrupt--and would he run the country that way? Then immediately turned to Rubio and asked, politely, for him to tell us all, please, how very much he likes small business and entrepreneurs.

        After the CNN debate, I'll compare the questions for you.

        But it's good to have you back.

      • The site also says, "Even if she “attacked equally”, we’re not looking for a hatchet-man." That's ridiculous. Tough questions are important--if they're to everybody.

        After beginning the night with several intense attacks on Trump,
        •Kelly politely gives Walker a chance to speak freely about abortion. She didn't interrupt Walker at ALL. Then,
        •she politely asked Kasich to explain his state's stand on Medicaid--and didn't interrupt at ALL. Then,
        •she politely asked Christie to explain his stand on NSA. She didn't interrupt at ALL. A fight ensued between Christie and Rand, and
        •Kelly did speak, but it was to encourage Christie to go ahead and, "make your point," "go ahead, governor," and "all right." Not the badgering she gave Trump. Then,
        •she politely asked Cruz to talk about ISIS. She did ask him for a clarification, but it was very non-judgmental, just helping him explain. Then,
        •she politely gave JEB a chance to clarify his earlier comments about Iraq, again, not at all challenging. Then
        •she politely asked Walker his favorite color--oops, I mean his favorite Arab ally. Then
        • she joked with Carson, didn't interrupt, and didn't seem to mind that he didn't answer her question. Then
        ••she made a snide off-mic remark about Trump. Then
        •she politely asked Rubio about his stand on abortion--letting him talk and encouraging him. Then ••she attacked Trump on the same issue. Then,
        ••she egged-on Bush to attack Trump, but he didn't take the bait. Which
        ••obviously disappointed her. Then, maybe the biggest softball of the night,
        •she asked if he'd like his kid if he were gay. Then, with her fetish about Christianity,
        •she asked Rand to talk about protecting Christians from the gay scourge.
        •She then asked Carson about 'Black Lives Matter," but she didn't seem to know what the phrase means, and didn't care what he said. Then,
        •she ended by asking if anyone "heard voices" telling them to run.

        Kelly pretty much made love to all the other candidates, but was a total. . .(not nice person). . .to only one person--her personal enemy, Donald Trump.

    • Best line: "... bar Megyn Kelly from hosting or moderating any future Republican
      Debates (she is better off hosting a ?D?emocratic ?D?ebate at this
      unprofessional level)." ---- LOL, LOL, LOL!

      Have you direct addy to sign petition?

    • Fox News is not slated to host another debate until January so I'm betting a lot of this dies down. Who knows, maybe they will pick a different moderator panel by then.

  • Agree, the questions shouldn't have taken so long and the candidates should have gotten more time to give us specifics about their platforms. But I do think FOX did a nice job with the debate overall. As far as winners of the night, I think one name was left out in the 9PM debate, Rubio did a very nice job.

    I have actually been a supporter of Trump. His non-PC approach is very refreshing and his bold leadership style is what I think we need. However, I really think his threat of moving to an independent if he doesn't win the R nomination is childish (like a three year old's temper tantrum) and would almost assure a D win; and I also think he needs to be more substantive.

    All the candidates should be defining their priorities and approaches to those priorities. Mine would be: 1. National Defense, strengthen our military, re-take our world leadership position and eliminate threats to our national security (both domestic and internationally). 2. Reform the tax code, flat tax, consumption, or a combination of both. 3. Eliminate our national debt 4. Secure the borders and resolve the illegal immigration problem; I favor some sort of temporary legal status allowing a path to citizenship and after penalties. 5. Education reform; some sort of voucher system that allows for individual choice. 6. Reduction of government. Start with privatization of the post office, motor vehicle administration, train system. The government doesn't run businesses efficiently, so let the private sector do it for profit and watch how quickly they become efficient and cost effective... Just a couple of suggestions on this one because there are so many obvious choices... Kind of makes you step back and say hmmmm; maybe another reason the private sector candidates are polling so well; Washington is corrupt and broken and people want real change!!

    My 2 Cents

  • First of all this wasn't a debate, but an orchestration.

    FOX wanted to destroy Trump, elevate Bush, and treat the rest as unwanted stepchildren.

    FOX failed in the first two (Trump won while Jeb bumbled and stumbled further down) but, achieved their third goal: the rest were treated there as just taking space.

    Rand Paul --- the only True American Patriot on the podium (like his father, Ron) --- got the least speaking time!

    In a true debate a topic is posed for all to respond in the same amount of time, then another topic, and so on.

    Instead this was a shameful display of attacking independent and libertarian, constitutional thinkers, while cottoning to sell-out Neocons and Rinos --- nothing else!

  • I would love it when someone asks Hilary Clinton the question? She and her husband were major share holders in "Yugo" auto corporations! The same company who was involved in building weapons of mass destruction arming terrorists with guns and nuclear controlled devices!! The question of an unresolved crime and the murder of intern Barbra Wise that occurred at the White House! What really happened in the testimonies and that lead to indictment of Ronald Brown and Ed Messer that were to testify against Bill Clinton for the White Water Scandal with their known James Fugal: his campaign manager and money laundering when her husband was still the Arkansas Governor!! He too was murdered!! When Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State she FAILED HORRIBLY! Even Barack Obama's had requested her resignation and know she wants to be your US President??

      • The White House has the largest security protocal and security system in the entire United States: if not the world other than maybe Russia? Where are the "Video Tapes" that recorded the events prior to the death of Barbra Wise and Bill Clinton claims to have stumbled upon her body when he went to recover his poetry book?? We the tapes destroyed? Those and many other records just up and disappeared without any explanations excusing him from any wrong doings or personal involvement in the affairs! Similarly how Paula Jones testimonies of sexual harassment and the indecent behavior of the president. Not including the dress Monica Lewinsky was wearing trying to have the evidence destroyed: and his lawyer tried to dismiss as circumstanial. If this were the everyday common man whom behaved as President Bill Clinton had done: they would had been tried and convicted for these crimes and sent to a lengthy period in prison and required to register as a sex offender - as bribery for sexual favors and solicitation of prostitution!! This is one prime example of power corrupts absolutely.

        • In addition:

          Wasn't Hilary also under direct sniper fire in the Benghazi incident other than just Bosnia?? Lol

          Oops sorry.

          That was Christopher Stevens whom suffered from the loss of his life as a true American patriot: not Hilary Clinton (SOS) whom waited nearly two years before testifying while the incident was still fresh in the minds of the American People!!

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