Candidates Behaving Well

Rich Galen
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 9:58 AM
Candidates Behaving Well

For those who feel that they have watch the GOP (or Dem) debates, I am reliably informed that Thursday night's debate was the next-to-last in the planned series.

There will be one more debate on March 21 in Salt Lake City but, as always, your mileage may vary.

These debates have evolved since the earliest ones. First of all, there were only four people on the stage rather than needing to split the show into two divisions.

As we have discussed before, the participants have gotten better over time. First of all, they understand how to pace themselves for a two-hour debate. Second, they've got their talking points down pat. Third, they are used to one another and, at least last night, didn't bristle at every real or imagined slight.

Finally, these debates have had a real impact on the process. Carly Fiorina's entire campaign, for instance, rose and fell almost in direct proportion to her debate performances.

Unfortunately for her, she had no other means to stay in the conversation between debates and ultimately lost forward momentum.

With all the handwringing about how a Trump nomination would spell doom for the GOP, let us remember that in 1984 Ronald Reagan was re-elected winning 49 states - 525 electoral votes to 13 for Walter Mondale. Mondale won Minnesota and DC.

The Democrat Party, as you may have noticed, is still with us.

The Debate

The debate was held in Miami five days before the Florida primary. Almost every one of these debates has had an impact - plus or minus - on one or more candidates. With only four candidates left, they had more time to answer. For the first hour, the candidates mostly stayed away from jabbing one another.

In fact, Trump said, "It's very civil up here."

At one point, Marco Rubio was talking about his plan to preserve Social Security by gradually raising the retirement age. He said "guys like me and Ted Cruz (who are in our 40s) will retire at 68 …"

He had a clear shot at pointing out that Donald Trump is already a year older than that future retirement age (he is 69), but he didn't.

By far the biggest cheer of the night came during the discussion of the U.S. relationship with Cuba. After Trump said he would close the embassy in Havana, Rubio ticked off a list of items that would have to happen - including free elections, throwing the Russians and Chinese out, and a number of other items.

That led to the most sustained applause from the South Florida audience of the night.

Best line of the night, I thought, was when Ted Cruz said that Trump has been asking people to raise their right hand and pledging to support him. Cruz said, "That's exactly backwards.

We should be raising our hand and pledging to support the people."

In the end, I'm not certain if last night's debate showed the first signs of exhaustion or whether each campaign decided independently that we've had enough of the nanny-nanny-boo-boo school of politics.

Either way, I thought it was the best debate of the 12. I thought John Kasich stuck to his strategy of not engaging in denigrating the other candidates, and I thought he did himself the most good.

I thought the other three did very well; didn't cost themselves any votes, but I'm also not certain they changed any minds.

They all behaved well, which can only help the GOP as the process moves toward July's conventions.