For the first GOP presidential nomination debate, I tweeted my assessment of the candidates’ performance from strongest to weakest. I came to this conclusion by judging which candidates best helped themselves. Because each candidate faces different challenges, what each must do to raise his profile varies. My assessment of the best performers and my rationale follows:
Last Place: Senator Rand Paul
Offering the absolute worst performance in the first nomination debate was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. From my vantage point, Paul’s challenge was to broaden his support among Republicans beyond the mythical throng of libertarians awaiting a fellow traveler to rise up for their support. Libertarianism does not play well with religion, so Evangelical Christians will not flock to a Paul campaign. Libertarianism has also shown itself weak in dealing with foreign threats, so foreign policy hawks are unlikely to consider Paul. Compound his views on domestic spying, and Paul comes across as a quirky candidate, needing to cobble most of his support from unlikely sources. Paul did nothing in the first debate to endear himself to any of these unlikely sources.
“You’re having a hard time tonight.”
These words, from Donald Trump summed up Paul’s experience perfectly.
From the outset, interrupting the proceedings to attack Donald Trump, Paul came across as a small, yipping, dog: eager to start fights he can’t win. When the general idea among the candidates was to avoid getting into scuffles with Trump, Paul went headlong into foolish territory and paid dearly by losing stature.
Then, came the infamous fight with Governor Chris Christie, in which Christie annihilated Paul as a grandstanding senator who doesn’t face the consequences of his votes and speeches as directly as Christie faces the results of his decisions. Paul resorted to a cheap shot about Christie hugging President Barack Obama weeks ahead of the 2012 election, but Christie turned that barb around by talking about hugging the 9-11 victims’ families who suffered because domestic spying resources weren’t employed before the attacks. Paul looked sullenly at the floor and shrank away until tepidly delivering his closing remarks.
“I am a different kind of Republican…”
Indeed he is. On the fringe. Finishing last in the first GOP Presidential nomination debate.