GOP Debate: 20 California Republicans React
By Jon Fleischman
California Republicans are reacting to Thursday’s GOP debate, hosted by the Fox News Channel in Ohio.
- Jim Brulte, California Republican Party chair. I was pleased with the depth and breath of the experience of the candidates on the stage. Almost all showed they would be strong leaders and we are fortunate to have top tier candidates.
- George Runner, Vice Chairman, State Board of Equalization. Carly deserves to be in the next main event. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Carson had the best overall responses. Trump is all about Trump and is gaming conservatives frustrated with the Washington hypocrisy.
- Cynthia Bryant, Executive Director, California Republican Party. Rubio had the line of the night for me when he said the Republican Party is blessed with so many great candidates and the Democrats don’t have a single one.
- Shawn Steel, Republican National Committeeman, California. Trump flaming out faster than I thought he would. Surprise performances from Kasich, Huckabee. Bush, Rubio, Christie performed well. Underperformed: Walker, Paul, Christie, Carson.
- James Lacy, ACU Board Member and Author, Taxifornia. Trump stumbled, Bush and Walker were just OK, Rubio, Carson and Huckabee surely gained ground, maybe Cruz and Christie too. Kasich was better than OK. Biggest loser was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) though Trump close. I could see Fiorina eclipsing Rand Paul in future polling.
- Dave Gilliard, California Political Consultant. Marco Rubio looks and feels like the future. He’s a winner. Rand Paul’s naïveté on world issues disqualifies him. He was a loser last night.
- Bill Whalen, Fellow, Hoover Institution. What a shocker: the Trump-centric field produced a Trump-centric debate. Trump was, a various times, surly, impudent and condescending toward his fellow candidates and the Fox News moderators. Add that he squinted, rarely smiled, played fast and loose with the facts, didn’t offer much in the way of concrete solution sand in no way was statesmanlike and we can rest assured: his poll numbers will probably go up. I thought it was a good night for John Kasich, who’s been on the national scene for a long time but rarely the national stage. He was personable, energetic and talked problem-solving.
- Aaron McLear, California Political Consultant. Senator Rubio, Governor Kasich, and Ms. Fiorina gained the most ground while Senators Cruz and Paul disappointed. Governors Bush and Christie were solid and the others were unremarkable except Trump, who might have disqualified himself by threatening to run as an independent.
- Diane Harkey Member, State Board of Equalization. Trump, our spoiler, was “Obama-esque”-if it’s not about him on his terms, he doesn’t want to play. Rubio was polished and presidential, Christie defended himself and made Paul look a bit off the mark, Bush didn’t hurt himself and is in for the long haul.
- John Thomas, California Political Consultant. Bush’s do no harm strategy was effective. Every answer appeared to be reflective of a general election position. He’s waiting for Trump to implode and pick up the pieces to secure the nomination. Rubio had the best opening speech that captivated the essence of his campaign – inspirational. Was there an earlier debate? Those other candidates will remain irrelevant except for Fiorina who might have gained a bump.
- Scott Baugh, Chairman Emeritus, Orange County Republican Party. The beautiful thing about debates is that true colors come out. Trump is not presidential. Walker and Rubio looked like they want a better America, and could lead us into a dynamic new future.
- Tim Clark, California Political Consultant. Kasich was engaging and knowledgeable; he likely gained the most tonight. Bush held his own on tough immigration and education questions. Bush also looked the most “presidential.” Walker fared well in substance and connected to the GOP base.
- Harmeet Dhillon, Vice Chairman, California Republican Party. Kasich and Rubio outperformed at the debate, while Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did not live up to their expectations. Trump came off pretty much as self-advertised, except he really reinforced an image of misogyny with his personal attacks. I did not care for the format, and did not think it did justice to our mostly fine candidates. To call this a “debate” is a misnomer. We should have had Fiorina on the stage, and Jindal, or had a different format giving more time and weight to all of them, in rounds.
- Arnold Steinberg, California-based Political Pollster. As I had predicted, Carly won the earlier debate, the spin should bump her numbers. Trump and Paul, and possibly Huckabee and Christie, were hurt. Everyone else held their own.
- Tom Del Becarro, U.S. Senate candidate and former CA GOP Chairman. Despite a terrible job by Fox, we began to hear and see the depth of the Republican field. It will only be finished by the Republican who offers a clear plan not only winning but also about governing.
- Reed Galen, California Political Consultant. Rubio, Kasich, Bush and Christie. Each either exceeded my expectations, surpassed them or held steady. Trump loses on GOP nomination and women’s issues. Rand Paul was the clear loser. Short air time and two body blows from Trump and Christie.
- Michelle Steel, Orange County Supervisor. Fiorina and Rubio were the big winners tonight. I was disappointed with the performances of Cruz and Paul. Trump is still a clown. All that said, it’s clear that any of the Republicans are better than any of the Democrats.
- Jeff Corless, California Political Consultant. Fiorina won, Trump lost big especially with women the way he berated Megyn Kelly. Jeb handled the toughest question of all-regarding his last name being Bush-extremely well, arguing he has his own record of accomplishment upon which he should be judged.
- Joe Justin, California Political Consultant. As a Detroit Republican, I’m interested in a leader who can expand our party into communities Republicans are afraid of and I saw Senators Marco Rubio or Rand Paul do well.
- Joel Pollak, Editor-In-Chief, Breitbart California. I did not enjoy the Fox News debate. It seems better in retrospect, because there were some memorable moments. But though I prefer hard-hitting questions, I think the moderators went too far. Some of their questions were personal-especially to the frontrunners, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Megyn Kelly owes viewers an apology for referring to the Iraq War as “your brother’s war” in a question to Bush. Other questions were more appropriate to a one-on-one interview than a debate. The winner was Ted Cruz, who gave calm, conservative answers and avoided getting into self-destructive fights with other candidates. The overall winner, though, is Carly Fiorina, who shone in the undercard debate. There, too, the moderators were also unduly harsh. They spent the first round of questions essentially asking each candidate why he or she hadn’t dropped out yet. If you’re going to stage a debate for the lower-tier candidates, don’t insult the participants. But Fiorina made the most of it and got more air time than she would have in the larger forum. Paradoxically, by missing the cut, she was the biggest success of the night.
Finally, my short take-aways:
Fiorina got the biggest bounce of the night, “winning” the second-tier debate. I didn’t see much in the debate to change the status quo. I thought Rubio and Kasich turned in solid performances. I wanted Cruz, who did well, to take the gloves off more. Walker under-performed. Trump was Trump, albeit I was surprised he wouldn’t pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.
The loser of the night was FoxNews – instead of mixing up all of the contenders into two equally featured rounds, they set it up so that many potentially great contenders were shoved into the obscurity of an early “loser’s round.”
Jon Fleischman was the Executive Director, CA Republican Party from 1999-2001 and the Vice Chairman, South – CA Republican Party from 2007-2011.