Ted Cruz was terrific, I thought, both at fighting back against the ridiculous hostile gotcha questions posed by the CNBC moderators, and in talking about his support for a commission "to get back to rules-based monetary policy." Said Cruz, "We need sound money...ideally tied to gold." Mr. Cruz also had a great pre-planned line about how the Democratic debate sounded like a debate "between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks."
A lot of people think Marco Rubio had a good debate. He speaks well on television. But when you stop to think about what he is saying, sometimes it is breathtakingly stupid, or at least out of touch with free market principles or practical common sense. For example, on immigration, he said he'd allow American companies to resort to hiring immigrants for jobs only after they'd advertised the jobs to American applicants for at least 180 days. The idea that a business can wait around 180 days before filling an open or needed position just to meet some new regulatory requirement imposed by the Rubio administration is totally out of touch with the speed of the way the private sector works. If you are a small business and can't fill a key spot, you can be out of business in 180 days. Government might move at that speed, but an employer in a competitive economy can't wait that long.
I feel a little sorry for Jeb Bush. He was a good governor of Florida, he is a decent in-person campaigner, and he'd probably make a more than adequate president, but for whatever reason, he just isn't good at these televised debates, which probably will mean it isn't likely that he will win the presidency, or even the nomination.
Governor Christie had a good debate. As someone on Twitter put it, he gave the answer on regulating fantasy football that Jeb Bush should have given, ridiculing the idea. He also had one of the best putdowns of one of the most obnoxious of the CNBC moderators, telling John Harwood, "even in New Jersey what you're doing is called rude." Based on his record in New Jersey I don't consider Mr. Christie presidential timber, but, again, one of the problems with these debates is that they measure debate skill, which is a different quality than how good a president someone might end up being.
There was a lot of talk after the last cycle about the Republican Party trying to make the debates more constructive by limiting their number and by requiring the participation of conservative media. RNC chairman Reince Priebus released a statement saying, "the performance by the CNBC moderators was extremely disappointing and did a disservice to their network, our candidates, and voters...CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled."
Donald Trump denied that he had called Marco Rubio Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator, which the immigration paper on the Trump campaign website in fact did call Mr. Rubio. John Harwood denied that he had corrected a story about Rubio's tax plan; in fact Mr. Harwood did issue a correcting tweet.
Dr. Benjamin Carson gave a gracious answer when a questioner tried to suggest it had somehow been hypocritical of him to serve on the board of Costco, a company that provides benefits to its gay employees and their families. Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee also participated in the main debate.