I had the privilege of attending the #GOPDebate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Milwaukee Theatre last night with friends and family. Overall, I would say I was not as surprised by the actual candidates and their performances, as much as I was surprised by the crowd’s responses. There were definite winners and losers and it was clear which candidates were the “real” Conservatives.
First, all those who “scored” tickets had to arrive on time and be in their seats by 5:30PM, because attendance at the “kiddie” debate was mandatory. We drove about 2 hours from Chicago to Milwaukee, found a convenient parking lot across the street from the Milwaukee Theater and waited in line for about 30 minutes. The line moved fairly quickly and was very organized, as we merged through the metal detectors, showed our proper tickets and I.D.’s, and headed to our Mezzanine section. As we had some time before the “kiddie debate” started, we wandered over to see the Fox Business stage. We were acknowledged by Chris Stirewalt, as he and his colleagues, Charles Gasparino and Lou Dobbs were setting up on the Fox Business stage in the lobby.
After our brief moment and recognition with Chris Stirewalt and Fox Business, we headed into the main stage area on the Mezzanine level. The Milwaukee Theatre has a maximum seating capacity for about 4000. We were ushered away from our nice ‘original’ center aisle seats, as the main cameras and stage actually ‘occupyed’ our seats. As we made our way to the right aisle seats, we noticed a crowd of paparazzi and journalists mobbed a familiar face in the crowd.
Yes! Governor Walker was very patient and kind. He spent at least an hour poising with local supporters and attendees throughout the evening. He was definitely a favorite in the crowd and at the event. He was later acknowledged by Chairman Reince Priebus prior to the “kiddie” debate.
The evening began with the “kiddie” or undercard debate featuring the candidates who didn’t even manage to score higher than 2-1/2% in the latest national polls. Thankfully, we didn’t have to endure Lindsey Graham or George Patacki, as they didn’t even get to 1%. The four participants were: Sen. Santorum, Gov. Christie, Gov. Huckabee and Gov. Jindal. Since none of these candidates have a snowball’s chance of being elected president, all that is worth saying is that Chris Christie seemed to clearly be the audience’s favorite, even though Bobby Jindal did a nice job of showing that he was the most conservative candidate on the stage and had the record to back it up. Jindal’s best line was aimed at Chris Christie when he said, “I’ll give you a ribbon for participation and a juice box.”
After a forty-five minute break, it was time for the main event.
The take away from the main debate is that it was clearly more substantive, but unfortunatly that also meant that it wasn’t as entertaining as the CNBC debacle. Having said that, a discussion of the issues is what was desired and that’s what we got.
There were no clear cut winners in this debate. When there are eight people on stage sharing the time, it is almost impossible for any one person to stand out and have complete control of the event. However, it was easy to see that there were a couple of real losers.
John Kasich was the clear loser of the evening, his strategy of interupting as much as he could, in order to gain more air time backfired big time. He succeeded in coming across as a petulant jerk. He tried to be a superior know it all, for example when he told Trump that deporting people that are in this country illegally, can’t be done, and that it was a ‘silly’ thing to say. His worst moment was when he told Ted Cruz that he (Kasich) would be in favor of bailing out a major bank, to the loudest boos of the night. The Luntz group even confirmed with this audience this moment to be the “lowest ever.” Next stop: Undercard Debate.
Jeb Bush was the other loser of the evening. Jeb! needed to have a good showing. Although his performance was better than in the three previous debates, it fell short of where it needed to be. He is now a dead man walking. He may have the cash, but he’s just NOT performing at these debates. Bush did have a strong presence of support in the audience, even though I thought he missed the mark most of the night. His down side: he still represents the Establishment.
Donald Trump had a performance that was on par with previous debates. I don’t believe he gained any new support from this debate, and may even have lost some. He had good answers on the subject of the minimum wage and illegal immigration, but beyond that, he didn’t show that he had the knowledge of others on the main issues. Lowpoint: Rand Paul schooled him on the recently negotiated trade agreement (TPP), pointing out that China wasn’t even involved in the agreement after Trump went off on how great a job China did in the negotiation. Oops. The audience actually laughed at Trump most of the evening, maybe they just like his entertainment. Trump had another low moment with the audience when he asked (directed at Fiorina): “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” Ouch.
Ben Carson, in my opinion, didn’t gain any ground in this debate. People who favor him will continue to do so, but he had no real standout moments that gained him any additional support. He’s still too low energy for me, but he had a large group of supporters present at the debate. Carson’s best quote was when he addressed Neil Cavuto: “Thank you for not asking me what I said when I was in the 10th grade.” Ben’s got a lot of grassroots support, but not sure he’s got the strength with organization and knowledge like Cruz. Carson was mostly quiet for the most part of the night.
Rand Paul probably had his best debate. But let’s be honest, he’s not going to be the nominee. He is NOT his dad. His followers in the audience were few, but loud. He did correct Trump on the topic of TPP, by letting Trump know China was not a part of TPP. His best moment however came when he addressed Marco: “Marco! Marco! How is it conservative, how is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure for the federal government that you’re not paying for? How is it conservative? How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You cannot be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs you’re not going to pay for.” Very true. Now although this was received well by the audience, I felt Paul would have scored a home run – if Paul would have left off the military expenditures. Republicans want a strong military, especially after Obama has destroyed it. Sorry Rand, but most conservatives would disagree with you on expenditures and the military.
Carly Fiorina had a good and impressive night. She demonstrated her command of the issues while also landing a nice shot on Trump in the process, but it probably wasn’t enough to give her any further traction. One of her strong moments came when she spoke on the military and said: “Russia can not tell the United States where and when to fly our planes…..We must have the strongest military on the planet and everyone has to know it.” BAM! I’m with you on that Carly! Carly was very consistent on “We need to take back our government”. Good support from the audience at times, as well.
Marco Rubio had yet another great night. He showed that he had a firm grasp of the issues. His passion and eloquence played very well and he got the loudest jeers from the audience. He will most likely be declared the winner by a fair amount of the viewers. One of the audience’s favorite moment, Maria Bartiromo asked Rubio how his résumé stacks up against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s. T-ball anyone? Who could not hit a home run with that one? (Really Maria? It was the ONLY time a moderator got booed by the audience.) Rubio was lucky none of the moderators asked HIM about illegal immigration or amnesty. Gang of 8 still haunts him. He’s young. He appeals to women with his good looks, but so did Bill Clinton. Next to Bush, viewed as another Establishment candidate.
Ted Cruz had another solid performance. He had a minimal amount of air time since he generally isn’t one to interupt. When Cruz spoke, he had some great lines and will probably be seen the most when the highlight reel of this debate is compiled. Cruz had the loudest supported moment from the audience for the evening when he addressed immigration: “…we are tired of being told, it’s anti-immigrant. It’s offensive.” THAT statement was one of the highest supported by the Luntz group as well. Another moment of strong support from the audience was when Cruz stated: “If you think defending this country is expensive, try NOT defending it.” Cruz had clarity and passion. His slip of the evening was when he talked about cutting 5 departments from the budget. Cruz mentioned Dept. of Commerce twice. The crowd picked up on that immediately. Cruz later stated jokingly that cutting the Dept. of Commerce twice was needed because it had such a base of cronyism, and therefore, we should eliminate it twice. Cruz also slammed Rubio indirectly as he attacked sugar subsidies and taxes.
In summary, the Milwaukee Theatre was a great setting for a #GOPDebate. Overall, the moderators did a great job, especially Neil Cavuto. The crowd was friendly, supportive and well behaved. Thank you Milwaukee! Only negative, in my opinion, was the quantity and quality of food or snacks that were not available. If you were looking to add any protein over the length of the 5 hours of the debate, it was almost impossible.
#GOPDebate Losers: Kasich should be on his way out. Jeb! will probably be next as well.
#GOPDebate Winners: Rubio and Cruz will probably drift a little higher in the polls.
Written by Nancy Hayes
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