Good night for Carly Fiorina and terrible night for Donald Trump.
She won the "face" face off with Trump, who came off all night as a bully whose knowledge base isn't exactly what one might want in a president. The only specific thing he said he will do is to hire billionaire Carl Icahn to fix something or other. Trump will also do deals with other countries, though it is by no means clear what kinds of deals are to be done. It was an abysmal night for Trump, but then so was the Fox debate, and afterwards he attacked the questioners and continued his rise in the polls.
An informal poll on Drudge indicates that this may be the case again: Trump was winning far and away early this morning (60 percent said he had won at just before 6 am), with Fiorina coming in second (16 percent gave her the victory).
Most commentators I saw thought that Jeb Bush hadn't been forceful in taking down Trump, who has gone after Bush with particular tenacity, but I thought he had a great moment–when he talked about Trump's trying to get a casino in Florida and being denied it while Jeb was governor. Trump looked particularly small when he sad petulantly that he would have gotten the casino "if I'd wanted it."
Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal thinks that in last night's debate "[substance] made a comeback" in a campaign season that had been "dominated by Donald Trump, whose approach has been to boast about his leadership style—'I’m a winner, I’ll negotiate great deals'—while skirting past detailed policy discussions. " Seib added:
But the surprise of the night may well have been Ms. Fiorina, who moved as deftly across the foreign-policy issues as did any of those on stage with more political experience, speaking with confidence about issues as disparate as Russian President Vladimir Putin, relations in Iran, ties with Israel and the fight against Islamic State.
Rich Lowry wrote in a post headlined "Carly's Night:"
Carly had a terrific night. Her handling of the Trump insult of her looks was pitch perfect, understated, but pointed. Her answer on Planned Parenthood was moving. She was a little too defensive on her HP record–understandably since it’s a vulnerability–but counterpunched effectively against Trump in that exchange. Her worst moment was when she made it obvious that Christie had gotten under her skin with his dig that average workers could care less about her and Trump arguing about their business records. Her concluding statement was very canned, but well done. I’d be shocked if she doesn’t keep rising in the polls.
As for the Chris Christie dig that Trump and Carly were debating their job record when it was the American worker's job that matters–well, it was just one of several attempts by superior duo Christie and John Kasich to pooh pooh what the others wanted to say and get down to what really mattered–their records. Governor Kasich, who has a great presence but showed himself to be out of step with the base several times, said at the opening that he wanted to get in something serious and important before people turned off their TVs. Gimme a break.
Dr. Ben Carson was low-key and charming and probably neither harmed nor helped himself. But his response when questioned about his opposition to going into Afghanistan after 9/11 should be a caution. It was generally agreed that Marco Rubio had a strong night. In a fun piece contrasting each campaign's after-debate spinners with reality, Eliana Johnson and Alexis Levinson wrote at NRO:
Rubio had one of the strongest performances of the evening. He looked knowledgeable, sounded clear, and neutralized attacks with ease.
I do want to mention one thing: it was disturbing how many GOP candidates came out in favor of taxpayer supported rehab for those addicted to drugs. I'm all for people getting clean but it is often an arduous process and dependent on the addict's decision. Not sure I want to pay for people to handle their drug problems, especially as there are free 12-step programs that don't cost the taxpayer. Fiorina brought this up in the context of her stepdaughter, who died of drug-related problems, and for a minute I thought of Al Gore's mawkish reminiscences about his sister, but Fiorina pulled it off with finesse, even if I don't believe in publicly-funded rehab.
The person who seemed most annoyed last night was CNN's Dana Bash, who clearly didn't like it that people running for president were more interested in presenting themselves and making their points than jumping through hoops for Nurse Bash.
As for the media in general, Breitbart had a nice post on how almost all in the green room didn't bother to stand for the National Anthem. They were just being objective–about the National Anthem.