Post-Debate Power Rankings — Who Won? Who Lost?

Photo credit: Teresa via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: Teresa via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Well, another GOP debate is in the books, and Fox Business finally delivered what may have been the most policy-focused debate we’ve seen yet this election cycle.

Here’s how the candidates’ performances ranked:

1.) Carly Fiorina

Fiorina may be the most polished debater in the field.  She nailed her answer on Obamacare and managed to steal the spotlight from Bush in taking on Trump over his Russia and Middle East foreign policy. Her closing statement on defeating Hillary Clinton drew a solid applause.  Although she will be unable to win the nomination based on debate performances alone, this will certainly keep her in the running.

2.) Rand Paul

Paul needed a good performance here to keep his campaign afloat, and he delivered.  After losing an early scuffle with Rubio over tax policy, he had one of the most memorable moments of the night in calling out Trump and moderators over the fact that China is not a part of the TPP.  He then went on to give solid answers on the need for caution in America’s Middle East foreign policy and the importance of an “all of the above” energy policy.  After this debate, Paul lives to fight another day.

3.) Marco Rubio

He didn’t perform quite as well as in the last debate, but Rubio still found his moments.  He had a great early line about the need for better vocational training which drew a large applause from the crowd.  He also capably defended his pro-family tax plan and increase in national defense spending from a tough challenge from Rand Paul. Throughout, Rubio looked knowledgeable and competent.  Another solid performance.

4.) Ted Cruz

Although Cruz seemed to disappear during parts of the debate, he still came through when it mattered.  In particular, Cruz impressed on monetary policy, as he did in the last debate, and may be carving out a niche with his critique of the Fed where no other candidate (save Rand Paul) has seemed comfortable going. He did have a Rick Perry-esque slip out when he mentioned the Department of Commerce twice in his list of five departments he would cut, but otherwise Cruz was rock solid.

5.) Ben Carson

By now, we should know what to expect with Ben Carson.  He gave somewhat vague answers to the few fairly straightforward questions he was asked, but otherwise stayed out of the fray and didn’t stand out until making a powerful closing statement.  He’s not a particularly good debater, but he probably doesn’t need to be.  He won’t be helped or hurt by this effort.

6.) Jeb Bush

Bush badly needed a breakout performance here, and he didn’t get it.  Although he gave good answers to each question he was asked, he didn’t do nearly enough to stand out.  Furthermore, he let his one opportunity to make a good point, in response to Trump’s answer on Russia, slip away as Fiorina jumped in to reiterate his point in better language.  It’s hard to see Bush being a serious competitor moving forward.

7.) Donald Trump

Trump was battered in this debate.  Although he stuck to his usual points for the most part, he was hurt by Bush and Fiorina’s attacks on foreign policy.  Plus, being called out by Paul on China not being in the TPP after spending his entire answer talking about China was downright embarrassing.  His supporters probably won’t care, but Trump did nothing to help his case for the nomination tonight.  In fact, he may very well have hurt it.

8.) John Kasich

Throughout the night, Kasich looked like he was trying too hard to insert himself into the debate, and when he did get an opportunity to speak, he rambled through different topics without sticking to a single message.  If there was a definite loser in tonight’s debate, it was the Ohio governor.

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.