Jeb Bush, who limped out of the Boulder debate, was under the greatest pressure last night to perform in the latest Republican party debate. Here’s what the press thought of the candidates:
The National Journal wrote an interesting piece focusing on Chris Christie, an underdog candidate for the GOP who many in the media deemed ‘non-essential’ this summer, who seemed to have made a comeback last night. The four bottom-polling candidates were brought onto stage first for an hour long token warm-up debate before the main affair (Christie and Huckabee joined by Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum failed to average 2.5 percent support in the four most recent national polls.)
“Christie delivered another strong debate performance Tuesday, rekindling hope that despite a demotion to the undercard event, the New Jersey governor’s natural charisma and blunt style is giving the long-shot campaign a chance to build momentum”
Yet Christie seemed to stay ahead mainly by slamming Clinton whenever he was in a tight spot. His humour, calm confidence on law and order issues and “veteran move” to point out he had complimented fellow candidate Jindal’s record may have won him laughs from the audience but may not be enough to pull him back onto the main stage. As the article points out, “His centrist tone on many social issues alienates many evangenlicals which complicates his campaign in Iowa and South Carolina”
The New York Times celebrated a move on from weeks of personal name-calling, the debate has been dubbed the “most substantive Republican debate so far”, perhaps correctly as “policy details and disagreements, for the most part, replaced nasty potshots”. Candidates were forced to lay bare real fissures within the GOP on immigration, national security, trade and the meaning of being a conservative. Given the 90 seconds constraint on each answer, they were more anxious to promote their tax proposals, to lament what they said were intrusive business regulations and to delve into the country’s monetary policy than bicker amongst themselves.
That said, Bush could not resist a glib thank you to chief rival Trump for being allowed to speak (“What a generous man you are”) before warning that Trump’s harsh proposals would drive Hispanic voters to support the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Immigration turned out to be the biggest dividing line between Republican hopefuls like Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich, who favor a comprehensive immigration overhaul, and the many primary voters who have embraced Mr. Trump’s harsh language about immigrants in the country illegally.
In fact, Trump hasn’t fared so well at all in American coverage:
“Donald Trump has played 2016 titan for months, and most attacks from fellow candidates ended up hurting the attacker. But as Trump fights to maintain his lead, he has appeared more defensive.” say the Los Angeles Times. Trump largely embarrassed himself as he was repeatedly called up on his naïve comments, such as his accusations of TPP being a trap laid by the Chinese when in fact China have nothing to do with the trade deal, and stumbled over turns of phrase.
The LA Times also makes the point that Tuesday’s debate saw a sharp contrast to previous GOP debates, in which the hosts egged on candidates baiting each other, as the moderators played a deferential role. Neil Cavuto started by calling out “the elephant in the room”, promising issues would be front and centre. “That is the agenda tonight: how each of you plans to make America better tomorrow.”
Huffington Post has compiled video highlights of the debate, and points out that a highlight was that there was actual debating. They have also captured some of Trump’s “eyebrow-raising statements” on immigration
Finally, they make the brilliant if somewhat snide remark that “the winner of last night’s Republican presidential debate may well have been “the British guy“”.
As the debate failed to produce a clear winner among the eight candidates, “a star was born in the form of 53-year-old Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal and moderator, whose nationality and accent was a source of joy and irritation to Americans tweeting the debate.”