The second Republican Presidential Nomination Debate featured 11 candidates instead of 10, a fair amount of policy discussion, and the usual dose of bickering and argumentation. In the end, though, each candidate needed to fare well in this debate by highlighting his or her strengths and addressing deficiencies. Each candidate faces different challenges, so with that in mind, I have scored the debate’s winners and losers in the following order:
First Place: CEO Carly Fiorina
Fiorina left the undercard debates to join her rivals on the main stage, and prove herself substantive enough for serious consideration. Her performance was simply stellar.
In the weeks leading up to the debate, Fiorina argued persuasively that the metric CNN used to decide who would participate in the debate contained serious flaws–mainly, that the polls CNN relied upon to book candidates were so old that they did not take recent polling fluctuations into account. Therefore, Fiorina was originally barred from the debate because her poll numbers before the first debate were low. Fiorina won the undercard debate and earned serious consideration and support from Republicans looking to replace less impressive candidates who happened to poll better than their debate performances. In effect, Fiorina entered the debate as an underdog needing to prove herself worthy of leaving the stage with candidates like Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor George Pataki to compete with candidates more widely predicted to actually capture the nomination. She not only proved herself worthy of the debate, she launched herself into the small ring of candidates that Republicans could feel completely comfortable supporting in the General Election.
Fiorina spoke competently on foreign relations, bested only by Marco Rubio and only by a small margin. She spoke movingly on human life–her voice cracking as if she were holding back tears for the millions of unborn butchered and sold for scrap. She revealed a human aspect of her life that many Americans hadn’t known about her–that she and her husband lost a child to drug addiction. She effectively turned her painful story into a warning about liberalizing drug policy and the lies claiming that marijuana is a harmless drug. As usual, too, she effectively attacked the Democrat frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.
As if this weren’t enough, Fiorina masterfully dismantled Donald Trump, the bully who in days previous made scathing remarks about Fiorina’s physical appearance as a critique of her competency to be president. In one of her many electrifying debate moments, Fiorina answered Trump’s sexist remark simply and effectively:
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Trump tried to smooth over the moment by complimenting Fiorina’s looks–a tone deaf move–and met Fiorina’s steely gaze. That steely gaze sent daggers through the screen. It would dice Hillary Clinton to shreds in a debate. It would sober world leaders unwilling to respect an American president because of her sex. It would haunt America’s enemies.
Carly Fiorina proved herself as “The Real Deal.” She may be America’s own “Iron Lady.” Her strong debate performance brings her closer to carrying the GOP banner.