Thursday, September 17, 2015

Your GOP Primary Power Rankings: Debate Number Two

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Last night's GOP Primary Debate on CNN probably didn't live up to the first on FoxNews back in early August, but it did have its moments.

The big stories coming in were the surprising surge of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and the continued dominance of billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, along with the falls of "establishment" conservatives Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

Carson had jumped from just 6% in the polls in late August to 23% pre-debate, and between his share and Trump's 27%, half the Republican primary voters favored a candidate with zero political experience. Throw in upstart Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, and her 4%, over half the likely conservative voter base seems to not value experience at all when electing the highest office in the land.

Would these three "outsider" candidates keep their momentum in Wednesday's debate, or could one of the good 'ole boys get back into it? Find out in our Power Rankings below.

Ed. Note- We have stopped watching those silly JV debates and won't be ranking candidates that don't make it to the big dog stage. Deal with it.

Also, our poll numbers come from a CBS News/New York Times poll released Tuesday.

11. Mike Huckabee

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 6%

Can we just forget about this guy already? I did, multiple times during the debate. When you're out freeing Kim Davis and volunteering to do her prison time, you know your campaign is about to end.

10. Scott Walker

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 2%

Throughout the three-hour debate, nobody looked more strained than the very sweat and shiny Walker, but I'm sure his camp is far more concerned about his plummeting poll numbers. Dropping from 10% less than a month ago, Walker came into Wednesday on life support.

Many criticized Walker for "disappearing" in last month's debate, and clearly he came in with a plan to assert himself more, but his forcefulness felt much less genuine than Trump's, Christie's, or even Rubio who dominated the conversation Wednesday. Still too early to totally count him out, but things don't look good.

9. Ted Cruz

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 5%

Cruz keeps getting more chances to say things, but he's a broken record at this point. To some, that's a sign of consistency, but to others, it's basically a more extreme version of views held by every other candidate in the race. Hard to see him hanging around much longer.

8. Chris Christie

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 1%

Christie injected himself into the conversation multiple times, and his 9/11 story was actually quite moving. He was assertive and made some sense on immigration, going toe-to-toe with Trump, and I'd expect to see him get a bump in the polls. Will it be enough to make him a serious contender? Probably not, but it's hard to count out a charismatic Republican from a Blue State, even one with some scandal in his past.

7. Ben Carson

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 23%

For the life of me, I've never seen anybody poll so well while saying so little. For the second straight debate, Carson rarely spoke, but when he did, he made (some) lucid points, and just has a way of speaking that is endearing. He still hasn't proven he can be trusted as an executive, and certainly is a wild card on foreign policy, but he's likable and very smart.

Not many candidates have that going for them.

6. Rand Paul

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 3%

Rand Paul was the most rational person on stage, and treated it most like a debate, actually attacking his opponents' points and producing counterarguments of his own. Unfortunately, when things break down, he simply doesn't come off well arguing with the other Republican bullies.

Basically, he's a classically trained boxer, and this race has become a street fight. Paul also finds himself in an odd state of flux. In nearly any other election cycle, he would find himself in the role of "outside the box thinker" and "outsider," but with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump/Ben Carson filling those roles, respectively, Paul is simply an establishment candidate with some different ideas.

That's actually a great thing, but they've got to find a better way to sell him. Right now he's just not making any kind of impact.

5. Jeb Bush

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 6%

Bush has fallen from 13% to 6% since the last debate, and he clearly came in with a plan to go after Donald Trump. It didn't really work for him, as Jeb seems far too nice to pull off the "attack mode" of other candidates. Like a few other candidates I've mentioned, the nature of this race, and what voters are looking for right now, have changed our perceptions of Jeb.

He mostly handled himself well, stating his conservative record, and scoring points with GOP supporters for de-funding Planned Parenthood in Florida, but his status as the ultimate "establishment nice guy" in the field is doing him no favors in this political climate.

4. Carly Fiorina

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 4%

In her first performance on the big stage, Fiorina held her own, facing off with Trump and forcing him to actually give in on something (he didn't call her ugly!). I'll take some points away for her saying that Hillary Clinton hasn't accomplished anything (other than Secretary of State and US Senator), when her own record at HP is spotty at best.

Still, attacking HillDog is pretty much a prerequisite at this point, so you've got to give her credit for going for it. She came off as tough, yet still likable. I'd expect a bump, if only so we can see her and the Donald awkwardly talk about her appearance again.

3. John Kasich

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 3%

Kasich just makes sense, you know? I mean, the guy thinks that deporting over 10 million people and taking away citizenship from five-year olds born here might not be a good idea, and he seems to think that tearing up a diplomatic agreement probably isn't great for America's reputation in international diplomacy.

He still made sure to get in his "I'm a Christian" spots, and once again mentioned his experience balancing the Federal budget back in the day. He disappeared at times, but made no gaffes and continues to look like a smart, thoughtful moderate that could win a general election.

Aka, he has no shot.

2. Marco Rubio

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 6%

If you want to get more than 2% of the Latino vote, Rubio probably wouldn't be a bad place to start. His thoughts on immigration, and American citizens who speak Spanish were big boosts, and he was well-spoken all night. Rubio has been riding the "good looking minority from a swing state" ticket for a while now, and he's not doing anything to screw it up.

That may be enough.

1. Donald Trump

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 27%

Donald was tame by his standards, but he did make Jeb Bush his… You know.

After Bush asked the Donald to apologize for bringing his Mexican-born wife into the immigration debate, Don didn't, then went a step further by claiming that George W. Bush hurt the Republicans so badly during his final months in office that "Abraham Lincoln couldn't have gotten elected" against Barack Obama.

To that, Jeb simply looked up sheepishly and said, "it wasn't my brother…"

Donald continues to climb in the polls, mostly due to him attacking other candidates and feasting on their remains. He may have gotten as much out of Bush as he can, so it'll be interesting if he starts going after anybody else.

Oh wait, he did open the debate by insulting Rand Paul for no reason. Well hey, the Donald can't be contained to attacking just one person a night.

No comments :