The second Republican debate for this political season is just wrapping up. I could say it is the second debate, as there has been no Democratic debate. I am not including the Republican debates with the second-tier candidates.
Below is my analysis of the candidates and their performance. This is from a libertarian point of view and from a general point of view of how I think others will perceive the candidates.
Donald Trump: He had a lot of time on stage. A lot of the discussion was on his personal remarks, his business practices, his temperament, etc. In other words, there was not a lot about his actual positions, although he did touch on those. This is what the audience wants to see though. They want drama television. Overall, I don’t think Trump was hurt any in the debate. Most of his positions are terrible from a libertarian perspective, but people like the fact that he speaks his mind. It is encouraging that he proudly points out the fact that he opposed the Iraq War. This would have been a non-winning position in previous Republican races.
Jeb Bush: He continues to have to defend his brother’s actions. He says he is his own man. The problem is that he doesn’t repudiate anything his brother did. The CNN moderators pointed out that his foreign policy advisors come from his brother’s and father’s administrations. Bush said that his brother kept everyone safe. I wish someone had pointed out that the hundreds of thousands Iraqis that died at the hands of the war were not kept safe. And the thousands of U.S. soldiers who died were not kept safe.
Scott Walker: Does anyone even remember anything this guy said? Do you remember Tim Pawlenty?
Ted Cruz: He sounds like a robot alien from Mars. I’m sure some hardcore conservatives will like him. His economic/ domestic positions are decent, at least relative to the rest of the field. On foreign policy, he is as bad as they get, if you don’t include Lindsey Graham. Cruz is so pro war, no libertarian should consider supporting him at all.
Marco Rubio: He was about the same as the first debate. He is a good talker. I don’t expect him to move dramatically up or down in the polls.
Chris Christie: He played a different strategy of trying to get along with everyone. I do agree with him that entitlement spending is the major economic issue that is being largely ignored. Aside from that, he is probably the most liberal (in the modern sense) Republican of the 11 candidates. I am not counting the other 4 that were in the warm-up debate.
Mike Huckabee: He was also about the same as in the first debate. He will get some support from social conservatives, but I don’t think he will be the nominee.
Rand Paul: He came out with a much more libertarian message. When he isn’t fighting with Trump, he actually can sound intelligent and reasonable. Don’t get me wrong here; he still didn’t sound anywhere near as libertarian as his father. But if Rand Paul had come out early on in his campaign the way he did in that second debate, then he would actually be a significant presence. His poll numbers would be far higher. Unfortunately for him, I think it is too little, too late. He spoke up when Trump said he was the only one against the Iraq War. Paul finally said that he was against it too. Why didn’t he do that in the first debate? Paul sounded really intelligent when talking about states’ rights and the 14th Amendment. But hardcore libertarians don’t trust him and will suspect he is just changing his message for political reasons, which is probably the case. It’s too bad he didn’t come out with a more libertarian message in the beginning of his campaign.
Carly Fiorina: I can understand why she was so popular from her first debate. She is a decent debater. From a libertarian perspective, I had no idea she is such a war hawk. In response to dealing with Russia, she said she would not talk to Putin, she would ramp up military exercises in the region, she would send more troops to Germany, and she would arm the Kurds. Maybe she gives some competition to Cruz as the most hawkish candidate.
Ben Carson: I am not sure what the polls will show after this debate. He had his good moments and his bad ones. I don’t agree with him that there is no link between vaccines and autism. From a political perspective, the government should stay out of the business of vaccinating people. This is a very divisive issue though, and he may lose a few supporters for his position which is in line with the medical establishment. His stance on the minimum wage was terrible. In terms of foreign policy, it was nice to hear a less pro-war stance. Again, it is a bit encouraging that more candidates are taking a less hawkish stance.
John Kasich: I don’t think there will be a big change in his numbers, but again I am encouraged that he is taking a less pro-war stance. He went up slightly on my own scale for this. Overall, his positions are terrible, but it is nice that candidates can take a softer stance on foreign intervention and not feel shunned by the Republican electorate.
Lastly, I didn’t love the job that CNN did. There were a lot of questions that weren’t asked that could have been quite relevant. There were too many personal things, but they may just be giving the audience what they want. I would like to see some questions on the Federal Reserve and on the unfunded liabilities. With that said, I thought CNN did a better job than Fox News, especially in terms of staying more objective. At least it wasn’t as blatant as Fox News, where the anchors tried an attack job on Donald Trump that failed miserably.