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GOP Debate Wrap: Candidates Won And Everyone Else Lost

Of course, Fox Business won too, now that more than three people know what it is.
GOP Debate Wrap: Candidates Won And Everyone Else Lost

While it was a boring debate for long moments last night, it still was a pretty interesting debate for a few reasons. First of all, the whining and bitching by the Republican candidates about CNBC definitely affected the way Fox Business handled the candidates. Hosts Maria Bartiromo, Neil Cavuto, and Gerard Baker were on their best behavior all night and made almost no effort to get the candidates to engage with each other on policy differences or asked any tough follow-up questions. They also framed many questions as if Karl Rove sent over his crib notes. It was the exact type of debate the candidates had hoped for.

BARTIROMO: Almost 40 percent of Americans are without a job and are not looking. Many have given up. That's what the participation rate tells us. You've said your policies will drive the economy back to 4 percent growth, which we haven't seen since the year 2000. What specific regulations would you change? And how will that lead to jobs and growth?

If Mitt Romney was president, this question would have been phrased much differently, considering today's economy. With the stock market running near all time highs and unemployment is a 5.0%, Maria would have asked how they would keep up Romney's pro-growth, pro-family economic policies.

The first hour of the debate was so sedate that it felt as if we were all at a distant cousin's wake and were making sure to keep the noise down.

Neil Cavuto decelerated his speech cadence to a pace so slow and deliberate that it was as if English was the candidates' second language. Checking out the Twitterverse, this was exactly the way Conservatives want their debates. Passive and deliberate, much like a presidential forum instead of a real debate.

The second hour livened up after Donald Trump rambled on about how much he hated the TPP and how China was destroying us. This gave an opening for Rand Paul to cut in and correct Trump on the obvious point that China wasn't part of the deal. This is something you'd think the Fox Business hosts would know since the TPP was a big subject on their network, but that was not in the cards.


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One of the only times Neil Cavuto asked follow up questions was when he discussed whether banks were too big to fail with Ted Cruz. As Ted checked off his list of talking points, Cavuto came back and asked him if he'd really let all the depositors suffer and let the banks fail. Cruz keep modifying his positions until he mellowed it somewhat, which then led to a showdown with Kasich.

The only major differences of the night between candidates was about immigration and a little foreign policy. Oh, and of course Putin. Carly attacked Trump for bragging about meeting Putin in the green room of 60 Minutes.

Carly: One of the reasons I've said that I would not be talking to Vladimir Putin right now, although I have met him as well, not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting.

But Andrea Mitchell pointed out this morning that she lied about her meeting with Vlad because she admitted on late night talk last month that she also met Putin in a green room.

If you watched the post-debate wrapup on Fox Business, Chris Stirewalt went gaga over Ben Carson, who actually spoke almost the least amount of any candidate and said that he was clearly the victor because even though he wasn't that good on economic questions, he seemed to know a little more than last time. (I'm paraphrasing) On The O'Reilly Factor, both BillO and Charles Krauthammer thought Ben Carson was out of his depth all night.

The candidates:

Ben Carson: I thought he scored from a softball question about his biography because he was able to deliver his preplanned line that attacked the media for vetting his past which conservatives will love and he also was able to close out the debate by playing his favorite card, "how the PC police are destroying America" But between those two, he fumbled mightily when he had to discuss anything other than Egyptian pyramids. And of course, the moderators failed to mention that Carson flip flopped on his minimum wage position.

Donald Trump: He was not on the attack as much during this match-up, but did get bugged by Carly's incessant interruptions which didn't go over well. He was his typical persona when he was asked questions and he didn't get hurt much last night.

Carly Fiorina: Most Conservatives loved her performance, but she didn't have any stand out moments which will not give her the rise in the polls she was hoping for. And you always have to fact-check everything she says.

Jeb Bush: I thought he was better last night because he didn't seem to be as frightened to engage and he wasn't scared off his anti-xenophobic immigration policies. He did have a little more zip to his step until the end and he'll remain in the top five in poll numbers even though the pundits say he's done.

Rand Paul had his best debate performance so far, but his complaints about spending liberally on the military are not positions most GOP voters believe in. They believe that the military is the only money the federal government should ever spend.

Marco Rubio, on the other hand was in full neocon mode on foreign policy and wants to increase military spending until the cows come home. Many conservatives believed he was the winner last night and I thought so too. He didn't hurt himself because the debate moderators made sure to keep him out of any discussion on his TPP "yes" vote or immigration policy which is his Achilles heel in the GOP presidential primaries. That was a shockingly disappointing decision by Fox Business, but showed how they did not want to muss up any candidate's hair last night.

Ted Cruz was also a winner last night outside of him pulling a Rick Perry when he flubbed naming the departments he would cut. He's in his element when he debates and can reframe a falsehood with the best of them.

John Kasich made an attempt at trying to be the compassionate one on stage again and filibustered as much as he could on some of the insane propositions the candidates were making. The reaction to him on Twitter went from nastiness to outright hatred for the man and I imagine he'll slide down to the kiddie table soon.

Early bird debate:

As I and most everyone else predicted, Chris Christie attacked the very dangerous and traitorous Hillary Clinton all debate long and was the clear winner of the kiddie table debate and pundits are already demanding that he be included in the big boys table again. Fortunately, it's not up to them but the voters, and the GOP base hates Christie.

Ratings:

I disagree with TPM's assessment and to me it appears the CNBC outperformed the FBN debate significantly.

Initial ratings for Fox Business Network's Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night show that the network drew about 10 million viewers, close to the 14 million viewers who tuned in to the CNBC debate in October, according to CNN.The Fox Business Network earned a 8.9 rating, while the CNBC debate earned a 9.5 rating.

I'll let the fact checkers do their thing because their attacks on raising the minimum wage were asinine and the (flat) tax plans being thrown around were not feasible in our economy.

And for all the crying about having a real discussion about economic matters after the CNBC debate, there was very little in the way of serious proposals being discussed that made the candidates defend their policies on the numbers alone. For a supposed business network, that's unforgivable.

Let's face it, the American people were the big losers last night since the moderators were more interested in garnering compliments from Reince Priebus instead of trying to get the candidates into a serious debate about the issues.

Read Adele Stan's piece on the debate: Rubio's Plan: Keep the Poor out of Higher Education

Digby: Why last night’s debate only solidified Republican-primary extremism

UPDATE: I don't know how I forgot to include this question from Neil Cavuto:

But the next time someone complains about Democrats getting softball questions in debates, remind them of this one:

First off, Dr. Carson, to you. You say you are in favor of a tax system, I guess akin to tithing, sir, with a flat tax rate of up to 15 percent because you said, if everybody pays this, I think God is a pretty fair guy. So tithing is a pretty fair process. But Donald Trump says that is not fair, that wealthier taxpayers should pay a higher rate because it's a fair thing to do. So whose plan would God endorse then doctor?

And no, the debate wasn't changed to the 700 Club at the last minute. That was Neil Cavuto of Fox Business News.

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