Well the 12th GOP Debate – that’s right, the 12th! – is in the books, and it was a very different two hours.
Donald Trump was striking in the calm, confident, controlled tone he used throughout. Ted Cruz attacked him repeatedly, getting shrill at times, but Trump never really raised his voice. He was deliberate but firm.
Marco Rubio virtually never attacked Trump. He was trying to be serious, above-the-fray Marco tonight, after spending two weeks as a bad impersonation of Don Rickles (that’s so unfair to Don Rickles – he was actually funny!).
Here is how I would rank how the four candidates did:
1. Donald Trump – Trump wins because his controlled manner dominated. Cruz kept trying to make him lose his cool, but it never worked. Trump did not back off one iota on his strong statement that there is a real problem within Islam, engendering all kinds of hate against the United States. The other candidates were more concerned about being PC. Trump didn’t back down a bit. Donald Trump did what he needed to do tonight. He was measured and controlled, yet firm and true to himself. That’s what voters needed to see from him.
2. Marco Rubio – Marco was much more likable in this debate. He returned to his serious self. The crowd was on his side – as usual – and he had some strong moments as well. But I’m not sure it sealed a Florida win for him – which is what he needs. We’ll see on Tuesday.
3. Ted Cruz – Cruz had some strong moments as always. But he is so wordy, and he tries too hard to get in all his digs and all his memorized lines that he loses people in the process. A few of his jokes fell flat and were missed and in the end, he comes across as a career politician and not the “what you see is what you get” outsider that Trump is.
4. John Kasich – He was not bad at all. But I can’t think of a single thing he said to distinguish himself. He was just kind of there.
I can’t see how this debate will cost Donald Trump votes. In fact, his measured tone and his strong stand on Trade and on the danger coming out of Islam will likely harden his support. It could even add some voters to his side.