Debate Aftermath: Dave Price’s Take on Who’s Feeling Good and Who Isn’t the Day After

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DES MOINES, Iowa–It feels like it wouldn’t end. Maybe it’s still going now. The second Republican presidential debate–carried live on CNN from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California–was long. REALLY long. Nearly three hours split among the 11 candidates. That’s a long time, no matter how much CNN pushed the Trump narrative.

Here’s a list of which candidates helped themselves and who didn’t:


Carly Fiorina–She’s the national media’s favorite choice for having a big night. She got her chance to stand up to Donald Trump (good thing CNN changed its original rules based on previous polling and let her qualify for the debate). Although, it wasn’t all good for Fiorina. Trump, a CEO himself, took her record down piece-by-piece as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. And Fiorina apparently overstated what was on those undercover videos taken at Planned Parenthood. (the facts aside, that was a powerful, powerful moment) But, overall, she has the post-debate buzz and she now needs to build on it.


Chris Christie–He’s been mostly a bystander in much of the national attention lately, after getting a lot of it early on (think pre-Trump). But Christie trying to stand up for the 55-year-old unemployed construction worker, while taking a shot at the back-and-forth bickering between Trump and Fiorina, won him some praise (his Google searches apparently surged, too). And it gets him some much-needed attention. Still waiting to see if he’s really planning on being a player in Iowa. Hasn’t shown that yet.

Marco Rubio–He didn’t have that one standout moment (that forced joke during his opening lines about bringing along his own water was definitely not the highlight of his night), but Rubio did try to show the depth of his foreign policy knowledge. He didn’t go on the attack (except when it came to President Obama), so he at least remains in the conversation about candidates who could still have a run before the race is over.


Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and John Kasich–All had mini-moments that their supporters liked. But did any really have those moments that won them supporters? Bush had a powerful response when he stuck up for his brother, George W., in the aftermath of 9-11. The audience’s reaction in the room with him was noticeable. But other moments in his back-and-forth with Trump were awkward. Bush doesn’t seem comfortable when things get especially heated.

Big picture, though…except for Bush, the men had little time to make a big impression. 


Donald Trump–The reviews weren’t nearly as good for the front-runner as compared to the first debate. His early, random shots at Rand Paul came from out of nowhere. Why come after Paul, who trails Trump badly in the polls, and at that point in the debate, had said nothing about Trump? What purpose did those attacks serve? Not sure how Trump won over any new followers.

Ben Carson–He does well in a room of supporters. But maybe debates aren’t his thing? Carson doesn’t get aggressive, which can sometimes look passive on stage with others. Rarely strays from his nice guy persona–and his supporters love that about him–but does that risk not looking like an assertive leader on this stage?

Rand Paul–He looked flustered when Trump came after his appearance. Although, he was probably shocked that it had even happened. Paul didn’t get much face time and he was buried on the end of the debate stage. So it was tough to stand out with his anti-war, pro-Libertarian pitch.