My Six Takeaways from the First Debate(s)

Preparations are made for the Fox News GOP primary debate in Myrtle Beach, SC, on January 10, 2008 (photo credit: Teresa via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)
Preparations are made for the Fox News GOP primary debate in Myrtle Beach, SC, on January 10, 2008 (photo credit: Teresa via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

1.) The Fox News moderators were unfair.

Trump is right: Brett Baier and Megyn Kelly weren’t just tough—they were blatantly unfair. The first question was a setup to get Trump.  They showcased Walker and Kasich with softballs. Then, what was that about gay marriage and religious liberty? They only asked Kasich and Rand Paul—giving no one who strongly opposes gay marriage a chance to shine.  Finally, the obsession with foreign policy and the relative neglect of economic questions. Why?

2.) This was Trump’s Horrible Awful Night.

He probably just capped his upside. His supporters still love him but how many conservatives want a candidate who defends Canada’s national health insurance program, invites Hillary Clinton to his wedding, defends his long years as a Democrat by claiming (during the Giuliani administration!) there were no Republicans in New York City, says he may still insult Rosie O’Donnell from the Oval Office—and can’t even pledge not to help elect Hillary by running as a third party candidate? He talked a lot about how great he is and how America is a bunch of losers. Not very Presidential.

3.) Rick Perry and Jeb Bush were the biggest losers.

Both emerged from the debate with little clear rationale for their campaigns.  I prefer Bush by a mile over John Kasich, whose desire to run from religious liberty issues is manifestly clear.  But Bush has a tough time competing for social conservatives, and meanwhile, Kasich just won a love-hug from the liberal and the libertarian media wing of the party.

4.) Rick Santorum was the only candidate to endorse, by name, the First Amendment Defense Act.

Huckabee, Cruz, Jindal, where are you? Bush? Walker? Anybody have a plan to protect our rights?

5.) Walker scored on a softball fake-tough abortion question from Kelly.

Kelly got journalistic “points” for sounding tough by accusing Walker of being an abortion extremist.  Walker came off looking like a real social conservative by refusing to agree with her assessment. For a candidate who must win in Iowa, what could be sweeter?

6.) Rand Paul is toast.

 

UPDATE: Gravis Marketing Poll shows Rand Paul, Donald Trump biggest losers.  Yes, I was right!

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.