Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Your GOP Primary Power Rankings: Debate Number 4

Marco Rubio (left) and Rand Paul (right) had a heated exchange in Tuesday night's fourth GOP Primary debate.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Mercifully, the Republican primary field is thinning, though not by the choice of any candidates. No, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie have not dropped out of the race, they have simply been relegated to the kids table as the main event debate stage has been trimmed from 10 to eight participants.

Among the eight candidates left standing, outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump looked to extend their lead, while "establishment" front runners Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz hoped to position themselves for a serious run at the nomination. The rest of the field was in flux, but one seemingly lost candidate found his way Tuesday.

Find out who, and check out our Power Rankings below.
Ed. Note- All our Pre-Debate Poll Numbers come from this McClatchy/Marist Poll.

8. Carly Fiorina

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 3%

She became Trump's latest victim, when the megalomaniacal billionaire called her out for interrupting people. She was interrupting people, but she wasn't the only one. John Kasich did the same thing, but neither of them fared well, and she usually interrupted people to then debate an invisible Hillary Clinton in the room.

She also came out and basically said we should stop talks with Russia, something we never did during the Cold War. Yeah, seems legit. On the whole, Fiorina wasn't terrible, but it feels like the air is coming out of her campaign.

7. Jeb Bush

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 8%

So, I actually slotted Carly at No. 8, since she spent the whole debate discussing Hillary and saying vague generalities about "taking our government back," then I listed the Top-6… And I forgot the other candidate in the debate.

Turns out I was forgetting about the man with the largest campaign war chest, Mr. Jeb Bush, which should depress you. How is a man so connected and so experienced performing so poorly? He barely leaves an impression. The only thing I remember about him tonight was that he used a board game analogy for war, and chose Monopoly instead of Risk.

Are you trusting that guy with the nuclear codes? He'll want to pass Go and collect $200!

But seriously, Jeb has too much money to fade away. He's gonna hang around until the end, but man does it seem hopeless for him at this point.

6. John Kasich

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 4%

Kasich and his people clearly thought the Ohio Governor needed to come out on the offensive, attack Donald Trump, and fight for speaking time. Well, Kasich did all those things, but he looked awful doing them.

Like Fiorina, Kasich often interrupted candidates while they were speaking about subjects he was not asked about, and he came off as more pushy than strong.

He even gave Obama credit for using the American Navy strategically in the South China Sea. Talk about political suicide at a Republican debate.

The one thing he got right was listing every committee he's every served on and stressing his experience as an executive. His line of "on-the-job training for President of the United States doesn't work," was a solid jab at President Obama, and had a nice ring to it.

Still, Tuesday showed Kasich was in desperation mode, and none of the blind haymakers he threw landed. Hard to see his campaign lasting much longer, which is a bummer, because he would be a very strong general election candidate.

5. Ben Carson

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 24%

Ben Carson, the only African American on stage, credited America's rapid growth in its first 100 years of existence to entrepreneurship, and not slave labor.

That's all I have to say, because I fell asleep every other time he spoke. I guess he's the front runner, but considering all the backlash about his (potentially fabricated) personal life heading into this debate and his lackluster performance, I'm betting that will change soon.

Of course, every time I think a Republican candidate will fall in the polls due to lying, some scandal, or a limited grasp of reality, GOP voters lend them more support, so who knows.

4. Ted Cruz

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 8%

Like Kasich, Cruz also came out on the offensive, but he picked his spots better, and delivered some great sound bites. His points on immigration were strong (though not always valid or true, but hey, neither of those things matter at these debates), as was his line of "if you think paying to defend this country is expensive, try not defending it."

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds great, and it drew a thunderous applause. At this point, I think we can safely say that Cruz has planted himself in the upper-echelon of the race, and he seems poised for a big push down the stretch.

3. Rand Paul

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 5%

Perhaps nobody had a better night than Rand Paul. After underperforming, and almost avoiding his Libertarian roots in the first three debates, Rand smashed his opponents with a face full of liberty Tuesday.

First he schooled Marco Rubio on fiscal conservatism, attacking Rubio on his tax plan and planned increases in military spending. "Can you be conservative, and liberal on military spending?" Paul asked.

A good question, and perhaps a point of cognitive dissonance among modern Republicans.

Later in the night, Donald Trump went on a tirade about China and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying we should vote it down because it would give too much power to China, and that the Chinese were robbing us in the deal.

Paul then stepped in and reminded the audience that China was not involved in the deal, and the moderators went a step further to offer the thought that if America does not ratify the deal, it will allow China to grow economically in the region. Paul then took it another step, offering the theory that China might not like the deal, because it would lead to America trading more with its economic rivals.

Basically, Paul did what Republicans have failed to do in three debates: Catch Trump when he's lying or ignorant in a meaningful way. He was also just smooth and collected the rest of the night. Solid debate all around, but will it be enough for him to factor into the race in the coming months?

2. Marco Rubio

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 12%

While Paul probably won the exchange with Rubio, he did allow the Senator to get in a great "America, F*** YEAH!" line. Basically, Rubio said that the world is a better and safer place when America is leading with a great military, and appealed to Republican hawks by exclaiming that radical Islam was coming for us.

It wasn't quite the polished performance he had in the third debate (fumbled over some words, came out on the short end of some exchanges), but Rubio looks like a guy that can grab the nomination, perhaps by default.

That may be enough.

1. Donald Trump

Pre-Debate Poll Numbers: 23%

So what if he thought China was involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, when in fact the deal would likely weaken China's influence in East Asia?

So what if he lied about never saying that Marco Rubio was Mark Zuckerberg's personal Senator?

So what if he lied about John Kasich being on the board of Lehman Brothers?

So what if he wants to go through the logistical nightmare of deporting over 11 million illegal immigrants?

So what if he gave Kasich a "screw you, I'm a billionaire" response Tuesday?

So what if he scolded Carly Fiorina for interrupting, when Kasich was interrupting other candidates even more?

So what if he led off the debate by saying that American wages are too high?

So what if virtually nothing he says (outside of, maybe, tax reform) makes any sense? This is the year of The Donald, and I'm not ending it until he does.

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