11 quick takeaways on the GOP debate

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From Simi Valley, California –

At almost three hours, there were too many memorable moments to try to recall for Republicans at the Reagan Library, so let’s run down the candidates from the GOP debate and give them a quick review.

Donald Trump – more than ready to dish out insults, Trump had reporters in the press center laughing hysterically at times early in the debate with his jabs. But it was not all smooth sailing for Trump when he was up against Carly Fiorina, and at other times when the debate got more detailed, especially on foreign policy matters. After the debate, Trump downplayed how well Fiorina had done.

Carly Fiorina – it won’t surprise me to see many people say that Fiorina “won” this debate. She stood up to Trump with a firm rebuke to his remarks about her face. And Fiorina won a huge round of applause for her answer about Planned Parenthood. It was a very good night for her – twice in two debates.

John Kasich – as his advisers told me before the debate, Gov. Kasich avoided getting into fights with Donald Trump and repeatedly emphasized his record in Congress and in Ohio. Kasich’s performance has some conservatives worried, which means he might be doing better than many had anticipated.

Ben Carson – With 11 people on the stage, some of the candidates did not get as much time, and Carson was one who seemed to disappear for large chunks of the debate. His performance was again quiet and underwhelming, but that worked for him in the first debate and he may receive good marks in this one as well. “It was not the best format,” Carson complained to reporters afterward.

Scott Walker – The Wisconsin Governor was much more aggressive in this debate, both in going after Trump and by inserting himself into several issues in this GOP debate. After weeks of sinking poll numbers, Walker’s performance probably made his backers feel much better, as he faced a lot of tough questions after the debate from reporters.

Rand Paul – Paul tried to go after Donald Trump, but Trump always seemed to be a step ahead of the Kentucky Senator with personal insults. Paul had an extended back and forth about marijuana, tax reform and the Islamic State, but none of those seemed to provide a breakthrough moment.

Mike Huckabee – Another one who seemed to be missing in the debate several times. He was able to use his time to advocate tax reform with the FairTax. Huckabee also forcefully spoke out about religious freedom and the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who would not issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Chris Christie – His debate performance seemed much better than the first as he got off some good lines against Donald Trump and others – but was he heard in this crowded field? That’s hard to measure. I would bet that Christie was very pleased with how the debate turned out for him; he needs a break out.

Jeb Bush – Bush seemed much more engaged and energized in this debate, as he repeatedly and directly challenged Donald Trump on a number of fronts. One issue that may get attention was the admission by Bush that he smoked marijuana 40 years ago.

Ted Cruz – Cruz did not get a lot of air time, but he clearly used his opportunities to say things that would energize his more conservative supporters. Cruz took a hard line on the Iran nuclear deal and argued for a government shutdown fight over a GOP bid to end funding for Planned Parenthood.

Marco Rubio – For the most part, Rubio stuck to his game plan of emphasizing his own views and plans, and not getting involved in trading jabs with Donald Trump. Rubio and Trump did square off a bit on how much – or how little – Trump knows about foreign policy specifics.

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