On December 15, 2015, the nine frontrunners — if we can call that many people “frontrunners” — in the Republican race took to the stage in Las Vegas in the final debate of the year. Terrorism, refugees, Russia and technology were among the subjects that Republican hopefuls debated, and we learned a few things.
- John Kasich, Governor of Ohio
- Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
- Marco Rubio, Florida Senator
- Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon
- Donald Trump, businessman
- Ted Cruz, Texas Senator
- Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
- Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
- Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator
Hillary Clinton is the ghost in the room for the RNC
Even when she’s not there, Hillary Clinton haunts the collective Republican consciousness. Before the debate even began, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus revved the crowd up with the statement: “Every single one of these candidates would be a world better than Hillary Clinton. Are you with me?” The sentiment was repeated throughout the evening, while candidates attempted to align Clinton’s policies with President Obama’s every chance they got. There was no mention of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Even when he’s not talking, Donald Trump leads the conversation
And when he does talk, he’s a jerk. Trump continually insulted people throughout the debate – Jeb Bush received a number of cheers when he said, “You’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency.” — but it’s not surprising, given Trump’s record. He also took the time out to call the moderators and CNN “unprofessional” for leading many of the questions for other candidates with asking their opinion on one of his policies or statements.
The environment takes a backseat to terrorism
Okay, so we didn’t learn this at the GOP debate per se; the environment has never been a priority for the RNC as a whole. Kasich said that in light of the recent San Bernardino shooting, world leaders shouldn’t have been getting together to talk about a climate crisis in Paris, but a global crisis with terrorism as its focus. Trump later stated that President Obama is wrong and nuclear war — not climate change — is the single biggest threat to American lives.
Big Brother-type activities are fairly acceptable to many of the candidates
Images of George Orwell flash through your mind when some of these candidates talk. Between Marco Rubio, who supports the government’s access to our phone records and Trump, who is still pushing to shut down parts of the Internet, many of the Republican candidates softened comments about the government invading citizens’ privacy with assurances that it’s for our safety.
Kasich claimed that encryption is the obstacle when it comes to detecting terrorist plots, while Rubio said, “I bet you we wish we would have had access to five years of [the San Bernardino shooter’s] records so we could see who he was working with.”
Carly Fiorina wants to push a pro-technology agenda
Fiorina tried to play the feminism card throughout the evening, citing the loss of a child and her battle with breast cancer at one point, and later attempting to channel Margaret Thatcher: “If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” She was probably relieved that the San Bernardino shooting took attention away from any questions about Planned Parenthood.
All sarcasm aside, she did make a good point: the private sector is innovating in ways that the federal government isn’t, and if the federal government wants to keep up with the times, and terrorists, they need to work with the best and brightest of Silicon Valley.
Rand Paul may be the only candidate who doesn’t want to go to war over Syria
Or kick Syrian refugees out, for that matter; although he doesn’t want to let more refugees in yet. He called Governor Chris Christie the president to lead the country into World War III and repeatedly reminded the group that regime change radicalizes citizens. Paul refrained from using the overused “boots on the ground” phrase that most candidates brandished like a sword, and his opening remarks say it all: “The question is, how do we keep America safe from terrorism? Trump says we ought to close that Internet thing. The question is what does he really mean by that?” Paul asked. “Rubio says we should collect all Americans’ records all the time. The Constitution says otherwise.”
He compared both options to North Korea and China and ended his statement with, “I think we defeat terrorism by showing them we do not fear them.” As a whole, the candidates seemed ill-versed in foreign policy, criticizing Obama for “leading from behind,” while Christie in particular said he’d shoot Russian planes down in the Syrian no-fly zone, unlike the “feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.”
Kasich tried to be a peacekeeper
There were insults and passive-aggressive jabs at one another on the stage, but John Kasich tried his hardest to offer some grandfather-like wisdom amongst all the tough talk. He tried to bring the focus back to job creation and the economy from the first words out of his mouth. He also talked about unity.
“We’ll never get there if Democrats and Republicans just fight with each other.” However, his podium on the far side of the stage means that we didn’t hear a lot from him. His delivery made him sound out of touch despite the fact that what he was saying was both sensible and relevant.
Twitter was more entertaining and possibly more informative than the debate
Does that sound cynical? Twitter was on fire during the debate. Everyone seemed to be chiming in, including Christine Teigen, who may have won the anti-Trump Twitter award for the evening with “Trump actually creates peace in the way I literally like everyone more because he exists.” According to The Hill, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders — who wasn’t a subject of discussion on stage — gained the most Twitter followers the night of the debate, followed by The Donald and Dr. Carson.
We could be looking at a Trump-Cruz ticket next year
It’s too soon to tell, but Trump and Cruz who, incidentally, seemed to be in competition to see who could be the most obnoxious on stage, appeared to be chummy with each other. Cruz confirmed that he wants a wall along the southern border as president, and laughed, saying he’d have Trump build it. Trump slapped Cruz on the back at one point and joked about bringing him on board as a running mate.
Donald Trump is “committed” to the Republican party
After the shenanigans of the past couple of weeks, during which time both Trump and Carson claimed they would leave the Republican party, moderators asked them point blank if they’d be departing the RNC. Trump replied with, “I’m completely committed to the Republican Party,” stating that he’s honored to be the frontrunner. Carson, for his part, wasn’t as clear in his response.
It’s time to prune the grapevine that is the Republican presidential race
As if the undercard debate wasn’t enough of a signal — the mildly insulting name refers to the pre-debate debate between former Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki and former Senator Rick Santorum — all the action during the primetime debate happened centerstage.
Fiorina, Kasich, Paul, and Christie tried to throw their weight around, which may be why Christie very noticeably escalated his dialogue throughout, but it was clearly a Cruz-Trump-Rubio show. Even Carson seemed to get lost in the mix between the Cruz-Rubio debates over the USA Freedom Act and the schoolyard bickering between Trump and Bush. It’s probably time for some of these candidates to bow out.
As moderators said at the beginning of the debate, this will be the one that people will be talking about at the table over the holidays. While it was certainly interesting to see how candidates interacted with one another, in many cases it just felt like they were arguing, rather than offering real solutions. As Christie said at one point, “If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin…”
What were your impressions after watching the GOP primetime debate?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer