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Thoughts and Takeaways From First Republican Presidential Debate

For every political post, I feel it is imperative to state the following disclosure: I DO NOT consider or identify solely with the Democratic or Republican party. In fact, my political views vary on topics between the two and I think it is important to have a good blend of ideas and philosophies from either side. Yes, I am THAT guy, and I do believe that if we lean too far left or right, our nation usually tips. Balance is and always be the key.

With that said, longtime DP devotees are aware that I love debates. I am a bit of a debate nerd at heart. I was on my college's debate team for three years and very much miss it. Oddly, more so thatn playing collegiate baseball. There is just the art form of true debate, intellect, quick thinking, fact giving, and let's admit, calling bull-you-know-what on opponents or those attempting to survive a hard hitting question, that is enticing for me. Again, yes, weird, but it's me. 

Now, with all of that said, I wanted to dish some quick thoughts on last night's Republican Presidential Debates. I watched both debates (yes, even the one that felt like a preliminary fight on a big fight card) and have to say that I came away with a better feeling about the GOP than I had going in.
It's no secret the GOP has taken a hit over the past twelve years, dating back to when President Bush was at the helm during what was a difficult run as President. Just my opinion, President Bush was dealt some serious blows that no President would have escaped looking well on. 

Nonetheless, after years of looking like a party that was "not with it" or wanted to "head backward", last night was a good first step. In my opinion, Jeb "Just call me Jeb" Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rick Santorum, and former HP head, Carly Fiorina, all came away as the big winners tonight. 

For me that was based not on my agreement of their plans or positions, but solely on their ability to articulate, and respond to the tough questions asked of them throughout the night. 

With that said, here are some other quick tidbits I took away from the 1st round of GOP debates:

 - Obviously, FOX news treated this event like a big deal, but I really believe opening the debate up towards questioning who would be willing to drop the party line if they lost the nomination was in poor taste. It's very obvious Trump is in this to win, no matter what tag line it's under. This just felt like a cheap way to create interest to start the night. And it also felt very cheesy. 

- Speaking of Trump, I'm not quite sure how he leads the GOP polls right now other than being, well, Donald Trump. I get that he is a lightning rod because he is the anti-politician right now in stating whatever he wants (though, his dig at Rosie O'Donnell and others were so entertaining), but his answers tonight were deflective, and somewhat unclear. After a while, riding the business train comparison will get old with voters. It has to, right? 

But I will openly admit right now, I start laughing as soon as the camera pans towards Trump. That scowl, man...that Trump scowl is entertainment in itself. And who uses the word "stupid" beyond the age of 30 the way Trump does? 

- In the opposite of stupid, you just have to love Megyn Kelly's prepared questions for all of the candidates in the second debate. She had some well-written and very tough questions, especially towards Trump. Major props to Ohio Governor, John Kaisch who held is own and responded favorably when asked how he would handle the situation if his children were gay. 

- I wasn't a huge fan of Ron Paul, and probably less likely to be one of his son, Rand. The latter Paul did an excellent job in doing what he is running on, "being a different kind of Republican". However, I will say this, his exchange with Chris Christie early in the debate with an argument of "opening the records of terrorists and not Americans" and "believing in the Bill of Rights" came off just like Christie called him out on, a bunch of hot air. Paul is good at being the wacky, aggressive guy, but in times like that, without facts and support, his positioning seems empty. 

- If you didn't know who Carly Fiorina was, you absolutely do now if you watched the first debate. Holy smokes! Sometimes you say to yourself in some of these debates, "some of these people have no shot", and that fit the bill for Fiorina. And then Fiorina speaks and responds to questions, and suddenly shes the sharpest person on stage, and in the room! Heck, probably in the whole entire GOP race! Such a shame that in politics, celebrity status and name recognition are part of the equation. But Fiorina is definitely on the radar now. 

- Last night's questions were heavily geared towards international policies and the economy. Unfortunately, I fear that if you are in the middle of the field on politics the way I am and you were watching with the intent to be swayed, you couldn't help but wonder and sometimes cringe at the amount of times "war" was brought up or suggested in responses. 

Additionally, sometimes the GOP are slow to respond on social issues, which Rand Paul touched on last night in reference to him visiting the cities of turmoil as of late due to police shootings and minority unrest - that was a huge moment for him. I would have liked to see more discussion on said topics, especially education reform, which has always been a big issue for me. 

By the way, Jeb Bush's work on education definitely should be applauded in Florida. With his background, he seemed like the only one who had a clear and concise idea of how to tackle that area with a plan and not just typical politician fluff. 

- I absolutely loved the back-and-forth exchange between Christie and Huckabee. I get that the open format is for the audience to consume information, but sometimes a 1-on-1 situation really brings the facts to life and exposes the weaknesses and strengths of a candidate. You can't rely on prepared statements in those moments, just sheer facts and knowledge of the topic. 

- On the topic of prepared statements, I find Trump's rambling very entertaining, but my gosh, someone in his camp - ANYONE! - get the man a prepared opening and closing statement in the future. PLEASE! 

- As stated above, I thought Jeb Bush held his own tonight, but he barely squeaked into that class. Jeb is very much less conservative than the others being in a purple state, and he needs to begin to show that political flexibility. He was alright tonight, but never really stood out, sans for a few topics on education and the question he received (from Megyn Kelly of course) about his connections to Planned Parenthood. On the other side, his lackluster response on Iraq didn't do him any favors. While he wants to be his own man and go by just "Jeb", he's a Bush, and he is going to have to carry the sins of his father and brother, whether it's right or not. 

- I thought Carson won the response of the night when asked about racial issues. His response was in reference to seeing race differently from everyone else on stage because he's a neurologist. "When I go into surgery, I work on the thing that really makes a person, not their skin color". Boom. Well said Dr. Carson. Standing ovay. Standing Ovay. 

- And finally, the excessive Clinton bashing went from being funny at moments, to feeling like a bunch of high school preps making fun of the big bad bully on the block when she wasn't around. At least Trump acknowledged he got Clinton to attend his wedding. Whatever. I still don't understand why we should care about that.

Regardless, we get it, you all dislike Mrs. Clinton. But the constant digs eventually sounded like fear, and not the supreme confidence from a party that should be geared up for 2016. Just my opinion. Just blogging. 

All in all, it was a solid debate night. Many made their cases, some got their name in the buzz, and some shrunk a bit (Scott Walker, where were you dude?). Unfortunately, right now, it still seems to be about Trump and his celebrity/entertaining position. Which is not good for anyone. As this needs to be less about ratings and interest, and more about the next four, possibly eight years, beyond 2016. 

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