What the media is saying about Tuesday night’s GOP debate

GOP debate

The Republican White House hopefuls took the stage in Milwaukee Tuesday night for their fourth debate face-off. Featuring the top eight candidates, the FOX Business network and Wall Street Journal GOP debate went in-depth on issues impacting the economy, including jobs, taxes, and international and domestic policy.

Here’s what the media is saying about the Republican candidates’ Tuesday night performances:

Jeb Bush:

  • Frank Luntz, Fox News: Jeb Bush had one of the best responses of the night when he went after President Obama’s record … “We need to repeal every rule Obama has…” Cruz did even better when he went after Hillary Clinton for being “the embodiment of cronyism in Washington.”
  • Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post: Bush’s first answer pledging to repeal all of President Obama’s executive actions was a very good one and tapped into Republican voters’ anger about what they perceive as unlawful overreaches of power coming out of the White House. And throughout the debate, Bush steered questions away from comparisons between himself and other GOP candidates and toward the potential matchup between him and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bush’s strongest message — and the one he seems genuinely convinced of — is that he is the most electable candidate in the Republican field. For the first time in a debate setting, he was able to punch that message through effectively.
  • Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson, Reuters: A steady performance by Jeb Bush in Tuesday’s Republican debate has halted the sense of desperation around his U.S. presidential campaign and may buy him time to counter the rise of chief rival Marco Rubio.
  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News:  For once, he stood up to Trump. “Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate,” Bush deadpanned. “What a generous man you are.” Bush was articulate on his tax plan, banking regulation, foreign policy and, especially, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He challenged the Trump-Cruz hard line. Why, though, does one suspect with each passing debate that he’s not a red-meat Republican?

Ben Carson:

  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: His canned response to a predictable question about trust fell flat. It came a week after it was disclosed he’d hyped his bio, claiming to have been offerred a West Point “scholarship.” In effect, he said, I’m an honest guy. Carson performed more strongly on his plan for a “tithing” flat tax. It would eliminate deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving. “The fact is, people had homes before 1914,” he said.
  • Eli Stokolos, Politico: But Ben Carson turned in his shakiest performance yet, struggling with a debate that focused more on substantive policy questions and taking up the least amount of speaking time despite his position in the center of the stage.
  • Maeve Reston, CNN: The calm, cool and collected Ben Carson returned to the Republican presidential race on Tuesday. After a week of lashing out at the press for scrutinizing shifting aspects of his biography, Carson took a lighter touch at the GOP presidential debate sponsored by Fox Business. He brushed off questions about inconsistencies in his personal story with humor and an artful pivot to Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi. “Well, first of all, thank you for not asking me what I said in the 10th grade, I appreciate that,” Carson said to laughter.
  • The Economist: Mr Carson seemed out of his depth on foreign policy. But otherwise the paediatric neurosurgeon had a relatively good debate, in spite of his soporific style.

Ted Cruz:

  • Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy, New York TimesMr. Cruz also argued repeatedly for big government changes, but stumbled notably when he pledged to eliminate five major federal agencies and then struggled to name them — a moment that recalled another Texan, then-Gov. Rick Perry, in a debate during the 2012 presidential race. “Five major agencies that I would eliminate: the I.R.S., the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, uh, the Department of Commerce and HUD, and then 25 specific programs,” Mr. Cruz said.
  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: Did we hear a Texan running for president stumble about which federal agencies he’d shutter? We did. It was no Perryesque “oops” moment, though. Cruz simply mentioned the Department of Commerce twice. Cruz went back to media-bashing. If illegal immigrants were taking journalists’ jobs, he sniped, there’d be more coverage of the economic consequences of a porous border. He was effective in warning that the GOP will lose if it’s a “party of amnesty.”
  • Jeremy Diamond, CNN: The firebrand conservative slammed critics who dub his hardline position on illegal immigration as “anti-immigrant,” calling that “offensive”; he staked out the middle ground as Rubio and Paul argued for opposing degrees of American intervention in Middle East conflicts; and he played to his base by slamming moderate, establishment Republicans.

Carly Fiorina:

  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: Fiorina’s repeated assault on “crony capitalism” burnishes the image — preposterous though it might seem for a former Hewlett Packard CEO — that she’s a populist outsider. “It’s about actually challenging the status quo called government,” she said, speaking of jobs. Her delivery is so crisp, few listeners notice when she ignores a question. Also, she got an assist when Trump whined, “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”
  • Jeremy Diamond, CNN: She’s back. The former Fortune 500 CEO reclaimed her spot as one of the field’s most effective and hard-hitting debaters — a quality that first hoisted her onto the main debate stage after a stand-out performance in the cycle’s first primary debate. Fiorina played to her strengths as a business executive, status as an outsider and displayed her command of the biggest foreign policy issues confronting the U.S.

John Kasich:

  • Erick Erickson, Fox News: Lastly, John Kasich is just an insufferable, angry man. Kasich tried to stand out by yelling and interrupting, but it did not work for him. He came across as a temper tantrum prone child while claiming to be the adult in the room by dismissing any new ideas.
  • John Zogby, Forbes:  John Kasich – was able to explain his experience, his success in DC and Ohio, and for being a compassionate conservative. He also carved out a role for himself as an adult, particularly on illegal immigration… he could be the last moderate standing.
  • Washington Post Blog:  But it was Ohio Gov. John Kasich who led the backlash against Trump.
    “Come on folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them across the border,” Kasich retorted to Trump. “Think of the families, think of the children” that would be deported under the Trump plan: “It’s a silly argument, it’s not an adult argument – it makes no sense.”
  • Frank Luntz, Fox News: Conversely, John Kasich couldn’t help himself – interrupting, interjecting, intruding, or worse. According to our voters, he was “rude . . . pushy . . . he just butted in . . . he seemed very desperate.” It got so bad for Kasich that after his second interruption in ten minutes, the dials nosedived every other time he spoke. …Governor Kasich scored the lowest we’ve ever measured in a primary debate when he backed the big bank bailouts.  When he added that he would “separate those people who could afford it,” our voters exploded.  Jeers, catcalls, even profanity…it was a complete rejection not just of his position but of his candidacy.

Rand Paul:

  • Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy, New York Times: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had perhaps the best night of his campaign, delivered a sophisticated explanation of his libertarian-leaning views on foreign policy. And he made a forceful case about conservatism, portraying Mr. Rubio as a big spender who would not adhere to small-government values. “Marco, how is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure for the government that you’re not paying for?” Mr. Paul asked, citing Mr. Rubio’s proposals for higher military spending.
  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: Stern in the first three debates, Paul needed to loosen up and let some of his inner maverick gallop onstage. He can be the coolest of the group. Did he bring the cool to Milwaukee? Definitely, Paul didn’t disappear. He stood toe to toe with Rubio. He accused Democrats of causing income inequality. He needled Trump for talking about the Pacific trade deal as if China is a party to it. “I’m the only fiscal conservative on the stage,” he concluded.
  • Jeremy Diamond, CNN: The Kentucky senator with strong libertarian-leanings showed up at the Republican debate Tuesday night — diving into an impassioned defense of his foreign policy views, challenging the hawkish instincts of the Republican Party and most of his fellow contenders.
  • Daniel Marans, Huffington Post: At the Republican debate in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, though, the old Paul was back: the guy who is steadfast and combative in his libertarianism, but in a likable way. The crowd ate it up.

Marco Rubio:

  • Jeremy Diamond, CNN: Rubio was once again the debate’s maestro — hitting all the right notes and not once appearing to bend under pressure. The Florida senator skillfully weaved his personal biography as the son of immigrant parents as he answered almost every question he fielded.
  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: Rubio is artful about doubling back to questions. He tried to assuage people’s concerns about how technology can kill jobs. “We need more welders and less philosophers,” he said, referring to postsecondary education, after he was asked about taking back government benefits. Whew! But Rubio was vague in answering Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s question about how he’d pay for a military buildup while promising huge tax cuts. Slashing Paul for being “a committed isolationist” was a non-answer.
  • Jamie Weinstein, The Daily Caller: Rubio is the single most talented politician in the Republican field and, like past debates, he performed marvelously. Like he always does, he matched substance with soaring rhetoric.  “For the life of me I don’t know why we stigmatize vocational education,” Rubio said at the beginning of the debate, explaining how to raise wages in the country by using one of his best lines from his stump speech. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders than philosophers. If we do this, we will be able to increase wages for millions of Americans. We will be able to leave everyone better off without making anyone worse off.”

Donald Trump:

  • Robert Garret, Dallas Morning News: Trump started well on border security. He invoked former President Dwight Eisenhower’s deportations. And he quipped, “If you don’t think walls work, ask Israel.” Arrogance, though, isn’t a winning tactic. “You should let Jeb speak,” he told moderators. Squabbling again with Ohio Gov. John Kasich about fracking, and how much it’s benefited Ohio, Trump declared, “I don’t have to hear from this man.” Hail, Caesar!
  • Jeremy Diamond, CNN: As he did in the last debate, Trump once again showed that he can be one man on the stump before a crowd of zealous supporters, and another when he’s debating a range of issues before a national audience. Trump’s tone was measured and his message was largely policy-centric. Even when he faced pointed criticism and pushback from his rival candidates — notably Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina — Trump didn’t get personal. He challenged their contentions and stuck to his message: Yes, the federal government should deport all undocumented immigrants and build a wall, he insisted; No, the U.S. should not be the world’s policeman.


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