Guy W. Farmer: The GOP debates: Winners and losers

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No doubt about it, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina “won” the recent Republican presidential debates on Fox News because she was sharper and better prepared than the other 16 contenders. She should have been on stage with the “Top 10” rather than being relegated to the also-rans debate. Over the long run, bombastic multi-billionaire Donald Trump will be the loser.

Ms. Fiorina’s answers to tough questions were concise and incisive, and she impressed me with her command of complex domestic and foreign policy issues. Which means she can attack Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton without being accused of waging a War on Women. Ms. Fiorina wasn’t my preferred GOP hopeful going into the debates, but now I think she’s right up there with other top-tier candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. I think New Jersey’s outspoken Gov. Chris Christie, is still in the running while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is yesterday’s candidate. Ms. Fiorina should replace him in the Top 10.

My dark horse candidates are Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who enjoyed home court advantage in Cleveland, and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who’s both smart and funny. As he noted, he’s the only candidate who has separated Siamese twins.

I believe ultra-rich, egomaniacal real estate mogul Donald Trump lost the Top 10 debate when he refused to back the eventual Republican presidential nominee, if it’s not him. His crude style and inability to answer complex policy questions will eventually destroy his candidacy.

So I think Bush, Rubio, Walker, Carson, Kasich, Christie and Fiorina held their own and remain as viable candidates while right-wing senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are fading fast because they’re too far out of the mainstream. If independent voters like me decide elections, they don’t stand a chance.

As for the rest of the also-rans, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum showed themselves to be candidates of the past; 2012 was their year. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tried hard but fell short, and former governors Jim Gilmore of Virginia and George Pataki of New York were in over their heads. And finally, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a younger version of Arizona senator and failed presidential candidate John McCain, advocated sending thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East. No way!

Some of my “progressive” friends love to bash Fox News but I thought debate moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace were well prepared and professional as they bombarded candidates with tough questions. The liberal New York Times praised the moderators for making the candidates “squirm” and for proving “their network isn’t a blindly loyal propaganda division of the Republican Party.”

What’s really interesting is the thin-skinned Trump and some Tea Partiers are blasting the Fox debate moderators for asking “unfair” questions. The moderators proved themselves to be fair and balanced (Fox’s slogan); it was their job to make the candidates squirm, and that’s what they did. Of course crybaby Trump whined about Ms. Kelly’s tough questions. “She’s angry and she doesn’t like me,” he whined. Boo hoo.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton continues to dodge tough questions as she lurches from scandal to scandal and Vermont’s Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders now leads her in New Hampshire. That’s why many Democrats are urging Joe Biden to run for president. You go, Joe! The Democrats don’t need a coronation, they need a competitive primary process that forces Mrs. Clinton to speak out on hot topics like Benghazi and Planned Parenthood.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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