8 August 2015

The Winners and Losers at the Battle of Cleveland


A preliminary bout of seven contenders prior to the main event featured seven presidential hopefuls: Sen. Lindsey Graham [S.C.], former Gov. Rick Perry [Texas], former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorena, former Gov. George Pataki [N.Y.], former Sen. Rick Santorum [Pa.], former Gov. Jim Gilmore [Va.] and Gov. Bobby Jindal [La.].

The winner here was ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorena. If given the opportunity to win the presidential ticket, Ms. Fiorena plans on doing two things: the first is to phone the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to vow America’s support for Israel and the second is to phone the leader of Iran.

“Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime, anywhere, for-real inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system,” argued Ms. Fiorena.

Most voters felt the power in Carly Fiorena’s words when she said she would undo all of Barack Obama’s executive orders issued since his first day in office. If Ms. Fiorena didn’t crack into the top 10 for the evening debate, she certainly made a strong push for her candidacy.

The dud in the evening session of the ten most popular Republican nominee hopefuls was none other than The Donald. Mr. Trump vowed to “take the brand of the United States and make it great again” when he threw in his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential race. That certainly did not happen on the first debate round of the 2016 Republican presidential debates.

Coming in as the leading Republican in the polls, Mr. Trump immediately distanced himself from the other Republican nominees by refusing to rule out that he could run on a third party bid. Arguing that he owed it to his supporters to keep open the option of running as Independent, he was steadfastly confident that he could beat Mrs. Hillary Clinton even if he were to face her as an Independent.

Mr. Trump didn’t have time for political correctness and that showed with his continued criticism of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Ms. Kelly pointed out that Mr. Trump had referred to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” and questioned whether he was fit for having the temperament suited to be America’s next president.

Mr. Trump could only answer by saying that Megyn was not being very nice as moderator. The billionaire businessmen will continue to struggle to find female voters as a result of such comments. This could ultimately become the headwind that prevents Donald Trump from maintaining the Republican lead in the polls.

The more interesting dichotomy to emerge from Thursday evening’s debate was that between Carly Fiorena and Donald Trump. Ms. Fiorena was among the first to criticize Donald Trump, stating that “no one who claims to represent our party should ever be judgmental in tone, vitriolic or angry.” The many voters that consider Fiorena the standout winner make the presidential run for Mr. Trump all the more difficult.

Principles matter to voters and after Donald Trump’s degrading remarks not only about Rosie O’Donnell, but also that of anchor Megyn Kelly, voters are not likely to support nor understand just on what principles Mr. Trump plans to govern on. The converse is a passionate Fiorena that has vowed to take on the dysfunction in Washington and reach across the aisle by working with others and oppose her own party if need be to support the needs of the American people. The rhetoric is clear and principled with Carly. She is a woman who is ready to take on the agenda of the American people, and not her own. With Mr. Trump, the intent of the mega-billionaire seems to be one of financing his personal agenda and propelling his media image to more and more American households.

The battle at Cleveland certainly saw Ms. Fiorena win the first round.

Alex Verkhivker is a contributor to Capital Ideas at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In prior work, he has worked as an economic researcher with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington and as an Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Alex holds degrees in economics and management from The University of Chicago and UCLA, respectively. You can follow him on twitter @averkh.