Takeaways from the second GOP debate

The second GOP presidential debate was a disaster. I have watched too many of these things to count and it was the worst one I ever remember watching.

Fox Business and its moderators were horrible. Ronna McDaniel should be replaced for allowing a progressive Univision host to be a moderator in a Republican debate.

The moderators were unable to keep control and they didn’t abide by their own rules. DeSantis, for example, was denied rebuttal time after several attacks. Instead, the moderators went to commercial.

Governor DeSantis said afterward to Hannity that if he was a viewer at home and hearing all the bickering and chaos on stage, he’d turn it off. I was tempted, I’ll tell you. There was a crucial Astros game on that I was missing.

Okay. Who do I think came out on top? After a slow start because it was 25 minutes into the debate before he was asked a question, Ron DeSantis turned it around and won the night. He got better as the evening progressed. He had three break-out moments, in my opinion. One was when he schooled the Univision moderator on the debunked accusation that the AP History course in Florida teaches that slaves benefitted for the better under slavery. The second was when he interrupted on-stage bickering among several candidates and delivered his personal story. He stressed that he is a veteran and it was because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 that he enlisted. He’s the only veteran running. DeSantis talked about his humble beginnings, an Ivy League education despite his modest circumstances, doing the hard work, and his accomplishments in Florida.

The third break-out moment was at the end of the debate. Dana Perino asked them a Survivor show kind of question – who would they kick off the island as a candidate in the race. DeSantis spoke out first and said they were there for a debate, not playing games. He said that question was disrespectful to all the candidates. He refused to answer. The others followed. Then after goading from a pissy Perino, Christie said Trump should be voted off the island. Perino was visibly angry that the candidates wouldn’t play her game. Please, can we stop with this kind of waste of time? No more of the “raise your hand” kind of nonsense.

Will any of that be enough to move the needle in the polls? That’s to be seen. This primary has been surprising. This debate was just too chaotic. That’s the word I keep going to – chaotic.

The biggest disappointment was Nikki Haley’s performance. She started out doing well but then she went over the edge. She turned angry against the others and that was surprising. I don’t like to criticize women for anger because men are never criticized for showing anger but it was a shock that she lost control like that. She’s a strong debater and articulates her positions well. Her performance this time was not as she performed in the first debate. She squabbled with Vivek, as she does, but she turned on Tim Scott and on Ron DeSantis in such random ways that it was out of character.


Haley accused DeSantis of banning fracking and offshore drilling in Florida but that was quickly fact-checked by Team DeSantis. Those resolutions were passed the same day he came into office but they were not his resolutions.

Do better, Nikki. She can go back to the other Nikki and win back anyone she lost tonight, if she is willing to do it. She had a strong showing when she went off on Vivek for doing business with the CCP (the same people who did business with Hunter Biden.)

One candidate who did himself a world of good was Governor Doug Burgum. “I didn’t come here to watch a debate, I came here to debate.” That is what he said after the debate when asked about jumping in and answering questions. This was a new, more aggressive Burgum. He did well on energy policy questions and on small business policy. He may move up a little in the polls as people get to hear more from him. He comes off as a grown-up.

Mike Pence dinged DeSantis on the Parkland mass shooting in Florida for some random reason. Pence is upset about how the jury selection went and the trial process. One father of a murdered student slammed Pence and showed support for DeSantis.

I don’t think Pence did himself any good last night. He came off snarky and it sounded out-of-character for his otherwise more passive personality.

Tim Scott was more animated and aggressive. He did well talking about slavery and racism when DeSantis was defending the AP History course. Scott said he has been discriminated against as a black man but America is not a racist country.

Chris Christie is not the tough guy he thinks he is against Trump. He gave Trump a nickname connected to his decision to skip the debates – Donald Duck. Is that the best he had to offer against Trump? Christie was strong when it came to supporting Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Republican voters that are losing patience with supporting Ukraine probably didn’t like that. Christie attacked Trump for not building the wall on the southern border, as promised, and for the false claim that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Asa Hutchinson did not meet the requirements to participate in this debate. He said he will continue on with his campaign and make a decision by Thanksgiving. Really? C’mon, man. If he didn’t make it to the debate stage, it’s time to leave the race. There is no lane for Hutchinson. He’s an establishment Republican, and that slot is filled by Christie and Pence. There just isn’t much appetite with Republican primary voters for traditional Republicans these days. The party is more populist-leaning now.

I do wonder why California Governor Newsom was allowed into the Spin Room after the debate. I know he is going to debate DeSantis on Fox and they are promoting that but last night was a night for Republicans. Newsom was a party crasher.

The debate moderators, Dana Perino, Stuart Varney and Ilia Calderón, just weren’t a good fit, in my opinion. Calderon is clearly not a conservative and her questions all centered around DNC talking points. Why was she chosen? She was completely out of place.

Donald Trump had a strong presence even though he wasn’t there. DeSantis did well by saying he owes voters to show up. Still, no one really did any damage to Trump. Nikki Haley avoided all talk about him, which surprised me.

All in all, the whole debate was not good. It was chaotic and I don’t think it changes anything. Trump will remain far ahead because no one has figured out how to knock him off.

I’m bothered by the fact that this cycle I thought we were finally going to avoid progressives as moderators and go with conservative-leaning moderators from Fox. Then the Univision woman showed up. I don’t understand the logic or why Ronna McDaniel doesn’t have a better grip on things. We have an election to win and a country to save. Democrats and progressives are not our friends and they will win (again) if we don’t remember that. DeSantis was strong and shined when he spoke about doing what he promised voters to do in Florida and when he spoke about his personal story. I think he did what he needed to do and won the evening.

The next debate is in five weeks from Miami. Time is running out. The GOP candidates have to make their moves or it’s going to be all Trump’s nomination. Is it already too late? It’s time to narrow the field. We can like some of the candidates but they aren’t going to win the nomination. Too bad Trump turned down the offer to debate DeSantis one on one.

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