Over at the Free Beacon, our old colleague Matthew Continetti is already up with his thoughts about the debate. He's reached the conclusion that "debates basically serve to propel second-tier candidates to the top. That’s what happened with Ben Carson last time. And it’s what’s going to happen to Carly Florina now." Not only do I agree with this, a few days ago I said that I expected a Carly surge post-debate and I'm feeling pretty darn good about that prediction after tonight. Continetti goes on to make some interesting obervations about Fiorina worth noting:
Fiorina has a fascinating speaking style. She’s clipped, emphatic, almost rote in her delivery. But it comes across as though she’s entirely committed to telling you what she’s thinking at any given moment. I can’t think of a more affecting statement from a politician I’ve heard than the one she gave on the Planned Parenthood scandal. When you combine that with how she destroyed Donald Trump when she was asked to comment on his remarks about her appearance, I expect the Republican audience of this debate to move to her in swarms.
Again, I agree with Continetti about all this, but it's worth adding how much this description of Fiorina's public persona stands in contrast with Hillary Clinton. While Fiorina is eschewing any attempt at a soft or explicitly feminine image and rising to the top of the GOP field based on sheer conviction and her command of the facts, the New York Times recently ran the deadly headline "Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say." Fiorina's is blowing politicians with decades of experience off the stage discussing foreign policy, and the former Secretary of State is doing fluff interviews on Ellen. Fiorina is deftly parrying grossly sexist attacks so they redound to her advantage, and Hillary Clinton, allegedly a feminist icon, is palling around with Kim Kardashian and calling a woman who's sex tape might be one of the least meretricious aspects of her career an "inspirational" and "aspirational" figure. (She made those comments during another hard-hitting interview with former Saved By the Bell star Mario Lopez, now the host of Extra.)
But more than that, Fiorina has demonstrated real political skill in that she can convincingly evolve. Earlier in the day, radio host Mark Levin's new publication, Conservative Review, blasted out an article reminding everyone "news reports say that Carly Fiorina was pro-choice, before becoming pro-life, and she supported fetal research in her 2010 campaign." Then in tonight's debate, Carly Fiorina stood up and eviscerated Planned Parenthood with a speech that may be the biggest stand-up-and-cheer moment the oft ignored pro-life movement has had in years. This is certainly a contrast with the rabidly pro-choice Clinton, but it might be more instructive to compare it to the last GOP presidential candidate's evolution on abortion. I don't doubt that Romney had a sincere conversion when he went from pro-Roe v. Wade to pro-life, but his explanation for how that happened was decidedly low energy, to borrow the insult du jour.
Considering Fiorina has only run for office once unsuccessfully, she's demonstrating an astonishing ability to grow, adapt, and persuade. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, just can't seem to convince voters that she's "likable enough" after decades at the forefront of national politics, to say nothing of whether voters believe she's "entirely committed to telling you what she’s thinking."
Now Fiorina is an unconventional candidate in a lot of ways, and unlike Clinton, she certainly lacks the resume that one would think is necessary to be president. But fed-up GOP voters seem incined to rewrite the rules this year, and if I were working on the Clinton campaign I'd break out in a cold sweat just thinking about the possibility of Clinton and Fiorina having to share a debate stage next October.
A reader sends in this image from the streets outside tonight's GOP Debate. It's the symbol from the Hunger Games -- a symbol of rebellion from the YA novel where kids fight to overthrow a dystopian cociety run by elites. The unorthodox street art campaign for Cruz has been seen in other parts of Southern California in the last week:
Tonight's debate was full of fireworks. And somewhat surprisingly, Donald Trump was arguably not the most confrontational candidate on stage. Senator Rand Paul provided some of the more memorable moments of the night by challenging the other candidates on stage. Here is a transcript of Paul's dust-up over national security with Governor Christie. Judge for yourself who got the better of the argument:
General Wesley Clark, a liberal advocate who eventually endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, praised the Republican candidates for an "excellent debate" in an appearance on MSNBC this morning:
“From the perspective of the democracy,” General Clark says, “I thought this was an excellent debate. I thought people around the world who would have see this would have looked at this and said, boy, those Americans, they know what they're doing.”
Spartanburg, South Carolina After a series of debates in which foreign policy and national security issues received little attention, Republicans spent Saturday evening here debating everything from the Arab Spring and Pakistan to foreign aid and China currency manipulation.
Another Republican presidential debate, another forceful performance by Mitt Romney. The subject was the economy, jobs, and finance—Romney’s strong suits—and he made the most of it, having more to say on those subjects and saying it more cogently than the other seven candidates.
In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove previews tonight’s debate, saying that it “presents opportunities and dangers for each candidate.” Rove writes that Rick Perry “has had two okay-to-mediocre debate performances,” which “is dangerous.” He says that Perry needs to convey that he would be a good steward of Social Security, while also advancing his plans for reforming it and putting it on more solid fiscal ground. “More importantly,” Rove writes, “Mr. Perry needs to change the dynamic of the debates, in which he’s been (in his words) the piñata,” and “put Mr. Romney on defense over health care.”