Simi Valley, Calif. - After threatening to become three hours of the Donald Trump Show, Wednesday's second GOP primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Library turned into a positive forum for detailed discussion about a variety of serious issues facing the country. CNN Anchor Jake Tapper, CNN Senior Political Correspondent Dana Bash and Salem Radio Host Hugh Hewitt asked thoughtful questions throughout the night and gave the candidates enough room to debate with each other, rather than just with the moderators. Now, onto how the candidates performed.
Carly Fiorina: There is no doubt former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina takes home the prize as the winner tonight. After fighting her way to the main debate stage with voters and by changing CNN rules, she rose to the occasion, handled the pressure and did not disappoint. She gave solid, detailed answers to questions about Iran, Middle East policy, drug use, her record at HP and gave a passionate and timely answer to questions about Planned Parenthood funding. She offered a detailed solution to each topic she discussed and she certainly deserves the description of presidential after tonight's performance. She landed a number of punches on Donald Trump and is the only candidate so far in the race who has been able to successfully do so. She handled his attack on her personal appearance in a way that clearly embarrassed him on the national stage and she took him to town when he tried to attack her business record.
Marco Rubio - Senator Marco Rubio came in as a close second behind Fiorina on the leader board. His strongest points of the night came on the issue of foreign policy when he talked about North Korean nuclear capability, the aggression the Chinese are showing in the South China Sea, the deal with the Iranians and he even referred to Russian President Vladimer Putin as “the gangster in Moscow.”
“The more we disengage, the more planes you’re going to see flying out of Moscow and into Syria," Rubio said.
Chris Christie - Governor Chris Christie was able to break through the surface tonight more than he's been able to on the campaign trail. He jumped in on issues where he has experience, particularly on issues of law enforcement and terrorism, and touted the defunding of Planned Parenthood in the deep blue state of New Jersey.
Mike Huckabee - Governor Mike Huckabee was a friendly competitor tonight and refused to attack fellow Republicans even when set up by moderators to do so. His biggest moment of the night came when he was asked about his support for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo -- I've been to Gitmo, and I've seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.You're telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky?" Huckabee said.
Rand Paul – Senator Rand Paul’s strong point tonight came on the issue of tax policy, where he was able to promote his own tax plan and sell it as fair. He introduced his plan earlier this year, which promotes a flat rate for everyone of just above 14 percent. He also commanded the stage on the issue of medical marijuana.
Ben Carson – Dr. Ben Carson’s strength isn’t on the debate stage, but rather on the ground. His poll numbers prove that. Tonight, like the first GOP debate, he didn’t make any particularly memorable impression on any issue and struggled to explain why he believes the U.S. shouldn't have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11.
Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Ted Cruz – Governor Scott Walker did fine, but didn’t make the impression he needed to tonight. Nothing he said was particularly memorable and considering how little time he was given during the debate to respond to questions, he need to make the time count. Governor Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich fall into the same category. They didn't make any serious impact tonight to move the polling needle in a positive direction. Bush fumbled a question about gun control and failed to roundly condemn a California state law that allows law enforcement to confiscate, without a hearing, firearms belonging to people the government deems mentally ill. Kasich stumbled when he tried to claim President Obama's deal with Iran does not involve trusting the terrorist regime, when in fact the entire agreement is based on trust rather than verification. Cruz didn't say anything we haven't heard before.
Donald Trump - Trump was Trump. Donald Trump did well on his main issue, which is defeating anchor babies and building a wall that he says Mexico will pay for. He continued his feud with Rand Paul and was embarrassed by Carly Fiorina after she was asked to respond to attacks he made last week about her personal appearance. By the end of the debate, Trump and Bush seemed to be on good terms as they were laughing and joking. They even exchanged a high five before leaving the stage.
The next Republican debate is scheduled for October 28 and will air on CNBC from the University of Colorado.