by Noah Crosley
Last Tuesday, presidential hopefuls met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to field questions from FOX News and Wall Street Journal pundits. This debate promised to be much more moderately run than the previous one, offering a stark contrast to the debate just two weeks prior. The state of Wisconsin is a strategic spot for this year’s fourth debate, being home to former vice-presidential candidate (and newly-elected Speaker of the House) Paul Ryan. Wisconsin is also the home state of the field’s early leader, Governor Scott Walker. Other than that, the use of a swing state is not uncommon, as Nevada and Iowa have already been featured in this heated debate season. As is the common trend in this debate season, the primetime discussion is the main newsmaker; therefore, I won’t waste time writing about candidates who weren’t even able to garner three percent in the national polls, and therefore appeared in a separate debate.
For starters, the field was noticeably cut down to a reasonable eight candidates (Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Fiorina, Kasich and Paul.) With this change, candidates had much more time to speak, fewer “fights” formed on stage, and the lower-polling speakers had an greater opportunity to state their ideas and arguments to the public. A more competently run debate, this one featured surprises, improvements, and details about the candidates that many voters had likely not seen prior.
Trump and Carson, who have been leading the pack as political outsiders, faced scrutiny with several questions and rebuttals. However, they took relatively firm stances and reacted well under pressure. With Trump, nothing is ever predictable. His calm demeanor and more proper decorum was unexpected, yet well presented. Perhaps not coincidentally, Carson seems to be making more and more outlandish statements as he continues to be seated by Trump, but this doesn’t seem to hinder his polling numbers.
As far as the other top candidates, Cruz showed his colors with great passion, ideas and ambition. However, the practicality of everything he says is always open to interpretation, no matter the venue. GOP starlet Marco Rubio fared well onstage Tuesday night, as he has all campaign. One of the more articulate speakers in the field, Rubio has a knack for repeating other candidates’ words and ideas and sounding genuine, or even like it was his own idea.
It seems only fitting that the bottom four would be fighting to make their views heard. Coming off an unexpectedly poor third debate, Former Governor Jeb Bush improved, if only by a little bit, as he stuck to his new campaign motto, “Jeb Can Fix It.” Perhaps his best moment of the night was when confronting Trump over his “plan to deport more than 11 million illegals,” Bush commented, “It just isn’t possible… and it doesn’t embrace American values.” John Kasich, another moderate governor, didn’t fare as well. After touring the Southern United States in the week prior, he made his appearance at this debate one to forget. After pestering the moderators for an opportunity to intervene in the conversation, he was finally granted time in response to one of Trump’s immigration points. This has been a theme of his debate season so far, as he has found trouble in speaking from the edges of the stage.
The two poorest polling candidates on stage actually had the best nights, in my opinion. Former executive Carly Fiorina showed the Republicans in attendance and the ones watching at home that she was back. Fiorina played to her strengths as a business executive and her status as an outsider, and displayed her command of the foreign policy issues facing our country. She will have to work to capitalize on her success this time around, unlike after her first superb performance.
Barely making it on stage, with about 3.5 percent nationally, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky finally shined. It was unquestionably his best debate so far. An exchange with Senator Rubio showed his integrity and passion for his libertarian ideals. While defending his non-interventionist world stance, flat tax plan, and experience in the senate, Paul won the debate in the minds of many journalists across the country, amateur and professional. In fact, he even won over this one—although, if you know me, it wasn’t that hard from the beginning.